Local News

Fletcher Plans To Continue Fight To Be State School Chief

Posted March 19, 2005 3:17 a.m. EST

— A new law passed in 2005 states the General Assembly can settle disputed election races, such as the battle for state superintendent. Even though the new law may favor his opponent, Republican Bill Fletcher said he will fight the constitutionality of the decision.

"There were clear rules in place to deal with a contested election in 2004 and those are the rules we've been working under," Fletcher said. "This new legislation takes away my right to go to court, takes away the public's right for an accurate count of legal ballots."

Fletcher trails Democrat June Atkinson by nearly 8,600 votes. He said 11,000 provisional ballots cast in wrong precincts should not be counted.

According to the new procedures, a 10-member panel would hold a hearing before the General Assembly meets in a joint session to choose a winner. Atkinson would hold the advantage in such a scenario, as Democrats hold a majority of seats in the Legislature and the rules do not allow the loser to appeal the General Assembly's decision.

Atkinson said Fletcher should concede to show respect for public education in North Carolina.

"There should come a time in one's life when you know to give it up," she said.

Although Gov. Mike Easley signed the new bill into law, lawmakers are waiting on final word from the U.S. Department of Justice to make sure the legislation complies with federal voting laws, but that could take awhile.

"I think of 'The Gambler' song, you know when to hold [them], know when to fold them. Mr. Fletcher really needs to fold it now," Atkinson said.

In a second ruling involving a Guilford County race, Hight ruled provisional ballots should not count. Fletcher said that also raises questions about whether provisionals should count in the 99 other counties.