Local Politics

Voting map mistake casts doubt on Benson election

Posted November 9, 2015
Updated November 19, 2015

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— A candidate who lost a race last week for the Board of Commissioners in Benson challenged the election results on Monday after his wife discovered that dozens of voters in his district never got the chance to vote for him.

Dean McLamb lost the District 2 race by seven votes to incumbent Commissioner John Bonner.

McLamb's wife said at least that many voters told her they were given the wrong ballot, so she started comparing Benson's voting maps to the Johnston County voter rolls and found a big problem.

"There's actually 12 streets that we have found that had been mixed up in different districts," Misty McLamb said. "(Residents) either voted in District 1 when they should have voted in District 2, or they voted in District 2 when they should have been voting in (Districts) 1 or 3.

Misty McLamb said she found 102 misassigned voters, or almost 5 percent of the 2,088 registered voters in Benson. Fifty-nine District 2 voters had been assigned to other districts – 31 to District 1 and 28 to District 3 – while 33 District 3 voters and 10 District 1 voters were misassigned to District 2.

"When they say every vote counts, this was not the case here because some people weren't allowed that opportunity to vote for who they wanted," she said.

Brenda Barefoot and her husband, Otis, were two of those people. The couple usually doesn't vote in town elections, but Brenda Barefoot said they wanted to vote for Dean McLamb last week only to find that his name wasn't on their ballot.

"When I didn't see his name on there, I didn't know nothing but to vote for what I was given," she said.

Johnston County elections director Leigh Anne Price said she doesn't know how or when the mix-up happened, but it looks like the errors date to at least 2003.

When a town redraws its voting maps, it's supposed to send them to the county elections board. Price has been looking into it, and she said it's not clear whether Benson did.

"We'll have to send what we find – the facts and findings – to the State Board of Elections," she said. "Their board would have to meet and determine whether or not we have a re-election."

Benson Town Manager Matt Zapp said in a statement Tuesday that town officials sent an updated voting map to the county in 2008 following the town's last annexation.

"The Town of Benson is dedicated to ensuring that all voters have the chance to vote for the candidates within their district. According to our records, we have followed all guidelines outlined by federal, state, county and town laws to keep our voting districts mapped and updated with the Johnston County Board of Elections," Zapp said. "We are working with all parties to solve this issue and guarantee that the results of our municipal elections are fair and reflect the will of our citizens."

Four members of the state elections board would have to find that the mistakes in the election could have changed the outcome. Any new election, if ordered, would be held in January.

Misty McLamb said she wants to see the election redone.

"I don't blame anybody at this point. It was just an error in the paperwork, but it could change the outcome of this election," she said.

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