11/11/05 — Incumbent won't draw straws for board seat

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Incumbent won't draw straws for board seat

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 11, 2005 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive Town Commissioner Paul Smalley said he will concede the race if the vote is still tied after Tuesday morning's canvass and the Wayne County Board of Elections decides to pick a winner by using some form of random selection.

"That's not right, in my mind," Smalley said.

The North Carolina Legislature chose the random selection method of settling ties in elections where there are fewer than 5,000 voters. The lawmakers decided to let the State Board of Elections order a runoff when ties result from elections in races that include at least 5,000 voters.

Fewer than 200 people voted in Mount Olive's District 2 race, which resulted in an unofficial tie of 84 votes for Smalley and 84 votes for Manley. Two other voters wrote in Kenny Talton, who won the District 1 race.

Smalley said he would have difficulty getting comfortable with someone deciding the election with a procedure as simple as a flip of a coin.

"Too many people went through sacrifices to vote for the election to be settled by somebody flipping a coin. We'll have to work through the process and see what happens. But you can be assured there will be no coin tossed."

Smalley said he knew there would not be another election.

But his challenger, Hosea Manley, had hoped for a runoff. He didn't like the idea of the election being decided by such a random method of picking a name out of a hat.

"It's not fair," he said.

But that doesn't mean he will give up if the coin flip or drawing is the means by which the District 2 race will be settled.

"I've come too far to drop out," he said.

The Wayne County Elections Board has no choice in how to bring closure to the District 2 race, director Gary Sims said. Election officials will look at the letter of the law and try not to deviate from it, Sims said.

The law calls for the board to choose a method of random selection. Sims said he has checked with the state director and found that the state board's preferred method is drawing a name out of a hat, but the state board will consider other methods.

"They said some counties flip a coin," Sims said. "Some draw straws. One county even got a deck of cards and randomly picked a person off the street to choose a card. The highest card won."

The board will meet Monday to review the tapes and research nine provisional ballots that came from the municipal elections this week. Four of the provisionals came from Mount Olive, two from the Civic Center poll and two from the Southern Academy polling places. But none of the provisional ballots came marked for the District 2 race.

The canvass will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and a final decision will be made that day.

Sims said the elections board is confident the process works, but the board might choose to recount the ballots to make sure the public feels comfortable with the outcome.

He said ties in municipal elections are very common. He said he has heard there were a lot of ties across the state in the election held this week.

"What if another election was held and there was another tie, and then another tie?" Sims said. "At one point, you've got to finish the election."