01/09/05 — Revote could cost county $20,000

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Revote could cost county $20,000

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on January 9, 2005 2:07 AM

Two months after Election Day, North Carolinians still don't know if Steve Troxler or Britt Cobb will be the next agriculture commissioner.

But one thing is certain -- resolving the dilemma could cost Wayne County more than $20,000.

The State Board of Elections has ordered a new statewide election in the Troxler-Cobb race. Troxler has filed a legal challenge to that decision, and a Wake County Superior Court judge will hear arguments Monday.

Should the election proceed, Elections Director Gary Sims estimates it will cost more than $20,000 to open the polls, regardless of whether it's for a handful or a horde of voters.

"There's no way of knowing what the turnout could be, so we'd have to be prepared," Sims said Friday.

The Board of Elections would have to spend around $18,000 on staffing the 30 polling places, plus additional help in the office, Sims said. Printing the ballots would cost around $1,500, and additional supplies, equipment and fees would add around $1,000.

Sims would likely need to ask the county commissioners for assistance with the cost, he added. "I'm not budgeted for this election."

The Board of Elections knew it would have to hold primary and general elections during the 2004-05 budget year, but it also was forced to hold a second Democratic primary in the state superintendent's race. That cost around $18,000, even though only 760 people voted.

A new election for the agriculture commissioner could attract more people because it would be open to all voters. The second primary was only for Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

The Wayne board is waiting for the State Board of Elections to set a date for the new elections. The U.S. Department of Justice will also have to review and approve the plans for compliance with federal voting laws.

In the Nov. 2 election, Steve Troxler, the Republican candidate, received 1,666,197 votes statewide, or 2,287 more than Britt Cobb, the Democratic officeholder. But the margin was less than the 4,438 ballots that were lost in Carteret County because of a faulty tabulator.

The State Board of Elections had agreed to hold a special election for the 4,438 people in Carteret County, plus any other registered voter in that county who didn't vote in November. But those plans were thrown out by a Superior Court judge.

The state board then voted Dec. 29 for the new statewide election.

In November, Troxler carried Wayne County with 19,869 votes to Cobb's 19,198.