County Asks State To Decide Benson Election

County forwards new election decision to state board

Officials in Johnston County have decided to forward the decision to hold a new election for the District 2 commissioner seat in Benson to the state.

The Johnston County Board of Elections held a special meeting Thursday afternoon at the Johnston County Courthouse in Smithfield to discuss a protest filed by Curtis Dean McLamb, this year’s challenger to the District 2 commissioner seat.

Benson Town Commissioner John Bonner.
Benson Town Commissioner John Bonner.

Mr. McLamb lost his race to incumbent John Bonner by just seven votes — 85 to 78 — on Nov. 3, based on the current numbers.

Initial Discovery 
A few days later, his wife Misty McLamb, told reporters she had discovered several maps that didn’t align. As many as 12 streets throughout Benson were mixed up in the wrong voting districts, she said. The mishap meant some voters never saw her husband’s name on their ballot, she explained to reporters.

A Town of Benson press release soon followed Mrs. McLamb’s announcement. It referenced minutes from a 2008 meeting, when a map was prepared by the town and supplied to the Johnston County Board of Elections with a request to notify the residents affected by the change in district boundaries.

In addition, town officials in Benson said last week that, despite district inaccuracies throughout local elections in 2009, 2011 and 2013, those years saw commissioner races that were both at large (at large candidates are not bound to a district) and unopposed.

‘By The Rules’ 
This year’s District 2 race, however, could have been affected by the mishap as it was both a district seat and a contested campaign.

It looks as if the map changes were never recorded at the county level, the Elections Board agreed on Thursday.

Elections Chair John Shallcross Jr., welcomed the small crowd inside the boardroom to begin the meeting. Mr. and Mrs. McLamb, as well as Elections Director Leigh Anne Price were sworn in to testify about the protest.

Ms. Price was questioned by Mr. Shallcross and gave her account of the issues with this year’s municipal election in Benson.

“I called the Town of Benson and asked them to supply our office with a list of streets by voting district. I then compared that to a list of voters from authorization forms on Election Day,” she explained. “(There were) discrepancies.”

According to Ms. Price, 25 voters should have received a District 2 ballot but did not, while 12 were given a District 2 ballot but should have received a District 1 or District 3 ballot.

However, no election laws were violated, Ms. Price assured the board. “There were people that went in and voted and I questioned what ballot they were given,” who followed Mr. McLamb in his address to the board.

“There was a man that lived in my subdivision and he was given a District 1 ballot.”  McLamb said.

“If I had lost by a vast majority, I’d say ‘just fix it,’ but you’re talking seven votes, that close? I want to see another election… .If I had come out the winner in all this — then found out — it still wouldn’t be right,” he added.

“I don’t think there was any violation of election law, at least intentional, but I do think there were irregularities.. .I think this was just a misapplication of information that was innocent and nobody intended this to happen,” said election board member Gordon Woodruff.

“I agree with Mr. McLamb’s comments — whether you win or lose, you want it to be done by the rules for it to be fair. I think there was an irregularity and that it should be addressed,” he added.

Board Secretary Darryl Mitchell made the motion to forward the decision to the North Carolina Board of Elections. It was unanimously approved.

Now, the state will determine whether to move forward on the county’s findings, ultimately making the call on a new District 2 election in Benson.

The state board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held in December, although Ms. Price was unsure of an exact timeframe on when the final decision would be made. Courtesy The Daily Record