NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The Board of Elections in New Hanover County on Thursday approved 409 provisional ballots and 1,801 absentee-by-mail ballots cast in the 2020 General Election. Workers also had to hand-count approximately 116 machine-rejected ballots during the pre-canvass meeting.
When added to the results from election day, the accepted ballots did not change the unofficial outcome of the two closest races in New Hanover County. It appears the three county commissioner seats will go to Bill Rivenbark with 61,052 votes, Deb Hays with 59,369 and current commissioner Jonathan Barfield with 58,979 votes. Barfield extended his lead over fourth place vote-getter Skip Watkins to almost 700 votes. But Watkins' total of 58, 281 votes represents 16.6 percent of the total, close enough to Barfield’s 16.8 percent to call for a recount, if the results stay this way in the vote canvass.
The other close race is for the state Senate District 9 seat, where the accepted absentee and provisional ballots cut into challenger Michael Lee’s lead over incumbent Sen. Harper Peterson. Lee’s total of 63,204 votes represents 50.51 percent of the total, compared to Peterson’s 61,936, which represents 49.49 percent. Any candidate finishing within one percent of a prevailing candidate is eligible to call for a recount, and at the current total it would appear Peterson is too far behind.
During Thursday’s meeting, board members voted to reject absentee-by-mail ballots for different reasons. They included:
- Four ballots were returned by someone not allowed to return them
- Two ballots were in an overnight United States Postal Service mailer that arrived on November 6. The elections director said there is no way to know when they were sent
- One ballot was put in an Ohio drop box (the Ohio board did send it to New Hanover County)
- One person who requested a mail-in ballot showed up in person to vote, but her ballot had already been returned through the mail and had been counted. When the voter said she had no memory of sending the ballot back, that ballot was disapproved. The ballot was rejected because to accept it would have meant she voted twice
County boards of elections will meet across the state at 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning, to begin the vote canvassing process which will certify the election results.