Elections board disqualifies state senate candidate

Erstwhile state Senate District 5 candidate Tony Moore did not change his residence in time for the 2012 election, the State Board of Elections ruled.

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Mark Binker

Tony Moore, a candidate for state senate from Winterville, did not meet the residency requirements under state law to run in Senate District 5 this year, the State Board of Election ruled today. 

Moore said he would appeal the ruling, calling the state board's decision "politically motivated." 

If the ruling stands, the 2012 election in the district would likely be over. There is no Republican filed to run in the district. Moore and Don Davis of Snow Hill were the only two Democrats filed to run in the district, which covers Pitt, Lenoir and Wayne counties.

Barring an as-yet unannounced effort by an unaffiliated candidate or unusually successful write-in campaign, Davis would win if the SBOE ruling stands. The case would next go to the N.C. Court of Appeals. In the mean time, Moore's name remains on the ballot since early voting is already under way. 

As described during the board hearing Friday, Moore has long lived in Winterville and what has been Senate District 5 for the past 10 years. When lawmakers redrew the district following the 2010 Census, however, Moore found himself living in Senate District 7. 

A house Moore had bought from his wife's family is in the newly drawn District 5 and Moore has been renovating it. However, those challenging his candidacy say he did not move to that new house in time. They point out he only changed his voter registration in February of 2012. And the website for the Winterville Town Council, on which Moore serves, still lists his old address. 

Moore's lawyer argued during the hearing that Moore's new house was very close to his old one. His precinct was split by redistricting, so he only had to move from one side of the precinct to the other. 

"He moved less than the distance from here (the Board of Elections Office) to the state Capitol," said Moore's attorney. 

And after the hearing, Moore said he had been living in the house. A big reason he may not have done everything needed to complete the move, he said, was that he was fighting cancer last year. After treatments, he said, doctors told him not to lift anything heavy, including a large mailbox for the property. 

"On my doctor's orders, I could not pick it up," he said. 

Still, members of the Board of Elections seemed skeptical of Moore's case from the get-go. They faulted the local board, which had originally ruled in Moore's favor, for not trying to compel him to produce certain documents, including his driver's license. 

They noted that under election law, it was Moore who had the burden of proof in this case.

"I am not far away from saying there is no substantial evidence," said state board member Ronald Penny. "Give me a reason to go with you."

Penny didn't get his reason, apparently. The board voted 5-0 to disqualify Moore.

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