Local Politics

State officials to decide whether to hold new election in Benson

Posted November 19, 2015 5:14 p.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2015 7:16 p.m. EST

— The Johnston County Board of Elections voted unanimously Thursday to ask state officials for permission to hold a new election for a seat on the Benson Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner John Bonner defeated challenger Dean McLamb by seven votes for the District 2 seat on Nov. 3, but McLamb challenged the results after discovering that dozens of voters had received the wrong ballots.

"People came to me and said they couldn't vote for me where I campaigned," McLamb said. "I asked them whose name was on the ballot. They had a District 1 ballot."

He and his wife figured out that Benson's maps don't match the maps Johnston County officials used to assign voters to districts.

Officials haven't figured out how the maps became mismatched. Benson changed its maps in 2008, and town officials said they sent the new maps to the county. But the elections board has no record of those changes, so the maps have been wrong for seven years.

County elections director Leigh Anne Price said she found 37 miscast votes in the District 2 race: 25 voters should have received a District 2 ballot but didn't, while the other 12 received a District 2 ballot but shouldn't have.

Both Bonner and McLamb said they support the call for a new election.

"Based on the information that the board received that there were some discrepancies, I don't think there was any other option, really," Bonner said.

"If I would've come out the winner and then learned all this, it still wouldn't be right because I couldn't win it fairly," McLamb said.

The State Board of Elections will likely take up the case next month, and four of five members would have to agree before a new election could be held.

"It’s unfortunate the way things worked out, but I think we had a good ending as far as making sure that we do have a fair election," Bonner said.

Now, Johnston County elections officials are working to make sure all of their maps are correct before voters head to the polls in March.

"We’ll go back and review all of our maps and geocode all of the voters and make sure and compare them with the 911 numbering system, which has 99.9 percent accuracy," said John Shallcross, chairman of the county elections board. "We’ve got a lot of work to do before the presidential primary."