11/03/04 — County board control too close to call

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County board control too close to call

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on November 3, 2004 2:05 PM

Control of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners will not be decided until next week when thousands of provisional ballots will be added to Tuesday's results.

In unofficial returns in contested races, Wayne County voters re-elected Commissioners Atlas Price, Efton Sager, and Jack Best, while choosing Bud Gray to fill a vacant seat.

If those results hold, Democrats would have a 5-2 margin on the county board for the next four years.

But 2,414 provisional ballots remain to be counted. Those could reverse the results in both the Price and Gray races and give Republicans a 4-3 advantage.

"The provisional ballots will decide those two races," Elections Director Gary Sims said Tuesday night.

Around 17,560 Wayne County residents went to the polls Tuesday, joining the nearly 21,000 people who voted early and others who voted traditional absentee ballots.

Republicans President Bush and U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, candidate for U.S. Senate, carried the county, but local voters chose to re-elect Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat.

The unofficial results in the four races for county board were:

*For the at-large seat, Democrat Atlas Price received 18,977 votes to Republican Hal Keck's 18,819, or a difference of 158 votes.

*In District 4, Republican Efton Sager won 4,105 votes, or 59 percent of the vote. Democrat Mark Hood received 2,909.

*In District 5, Democrat Roland "Bud" Gray received 3,176 votes, or 79 more than Ed Wharton, the county's GOP chairman. The seat is now held by Republican Arnold Flowers who did not file for re-election.

*In District 6, Democrat Jack Best, with 4,000 votes or 55 percent, topped Republican Roger Bedford, 3,230 votes.

Republican Andy Anderson and Democrats J.D. Evans and John Bell were re-elected without opposition in Districts 1, 2 and 3, respectively.

The provisional ballots are used when pollworkers cannot confirm voters' information. Primarily, this is due to people having moved since the last election and not updating their registrations with the Board of Elections.

Sims estimated that better than 90 percent of the provisional ballots will ultimately be determined to be legitimate and included in the totals.

All the qualified provisionals will be counted in the at-large race. Sims could not say Tuesday night how many might be counted in individual districts, but Best and Sager are most likely safe.

The elections staff began reviewing the provisional ballots this morning to determine whether voters were qualified and, if so, in which races they should have been allowed to vote.

The Board of Elections will meet Friday morning to begin reviewing the tapes from tabulators and certifying those numbers. It likely will begin looking at provisional ballots then, Sims said.

The Elections Board is scheduled to reconvene next Tuesday at 9 a.m. Sims hopes that the board will be ready to act on the provisional ballots when the canvass begins at 11 a.m., he said.