The State Board of Elections on Monday ordered a new election for the Town of Dobson Board of Commissioners in Surry County, and determined that hearings should be held for the possible removal of two Surry County Board of Elections members.
The State Board unanimously ordered a new election for two Dobson commissioner seats after a poll worker indicated that a candidate in that contest was deceased when handing a ballot to multiple voters on Election Day, November 8.
The contest was between four candidates, with the top two vote-getters earning seats on the town board of commissioners. The third-place candidate, John Jonczak, protested the results. Jonczak received 8 fewer votes than the second-place candidate, Walter White. Candidate J. Wayne Atkins received the most votes.
Surry County voter James E. Yokeley Jr. also protested the results on similar grounds.
In its hearing of the protests, the Surry County Board of Elections determined that the poll worker’s actions in pointing out a deceased candidate could have influenced voters’ choices and cast doubt on the outcome of the close election.
The State Board agreed. It scheduled the new election for Tuesday, March 7, 2023, with in-person early voting beginning on February 16, 2023. Voters will vote for two candidates out of three on the ballot: J. Wayne Atkins, Walter White, and John Jonczak.
Under state law, the State Board may order a new election if at least four of its five members determine that “irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.” N.C.G.S. § 163-182.13(a)(4).
Damon Circosta, chair of the State Board of Elections, said the State Board does not take decisions to order new elections lightly.
“When issues arise, there are procedures in place to remedy them, and that’s where we are now,” Circosta said during the meeting.
State Board orders hearings on possible removal of two Surry County Board of Elections members
The State Board also voted to set hearings on the possible removal of two Surry County Board of Elections members – Jerry Forestieri and Timothy DeHaan – after finding prima facie evidence of a violation of election law, duties imposed on board members, and/or participation in irregularities or incompetence to discharge the duties of the office. Orange County resident Bob Hall filed complaints against the county board members seeking their removal.
The date of these hearings has not been scheduled, but they will not be held before the New Year. The State Board will send out a notice and post information at NCSBE.gov when the hearings are scheduled.
In other business…
The State Board also:
- Unanimously certified the vote totals for the runoff election for Nash County Public Schools Board of Education – District 8, which was held on December 6. In that contest, Zacques (Zack) Gray defeated Kathy Hawk. Post-election audits confirmed the results were accurate.
- Unanimously appointed Deborah Lassiter Hurdle as a Republican member of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections.