06/08/06 — Date set for board to decide primary

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Date set for board to decide primary

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 8, 2006 1:49 PM

The state Board of Elections will hear a complaint by Rep. Stephen LaRoque in the District 10 race for the state House on July 12 in Raleigh, state officials said Wednesday.

LaRoque, a Kinston businessman, lost the Republican primary by 11 votes to challenger Willie Ray Starling of Wayne County.

District 10 includes all of Greene, a large part of Lenoir and a small section of eastern Wayne counties.

LaRoque says some voters who would have otherwise voted for him were denied the proper ballot on May 2. Both the Democratic and Republican primaries were open to unaffiliated voters, but LaRoque contended that some unaffiliated voters were denied ballots that would have given them a chance to vote in the Republican race.

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections, said board members will meet on July 12, but that the five-member board has not set a time for the hearing.

Larry Leak of Asheville is the chairman of the state Board of Elections, which consists of three Democrats and two Republicans. The other members are Lorraine Shinn of Greenville, Charles Winfree of Greensboro, Genevieve Sims of Raleigh and Robert Cordle of Charlotte.

LaRoque's protest was heard by the Lenoir County Board of Elections on May 22. The three-member county Board of Elections agreed that his claim merited attention by the state board. Dorothea Branch, Oscar Herring and Bobby Waller determined that an audit of the county's election showed a discrepancy in 13 of the 17 precincts included in the district.

Starling won in Wayne County by a 277-57 margin. LaRoque won 733-500 in his home county of Lenoir, but Starling held a 136-112 edge in Greene.

At the Lenoir hearing, several voters stated that they were not given the correct ballot.

Should the state board rule against LaRoque, he could appeal the decision to Wake County Superior Court, Bartlett said. After that, the normal court appeal process would be followed, with the case going to the state Court of Appeals, and, if necessary, the state Supreme Court.

Bartlett said few decisions rendered by the state Board of Elections are appealed.

LaRoque has served two terms in the Legislature. Starling has previously unsuccessfully sought the seat.