Voters in the town of Dobson will go back to the polls after the State Board of Elections found that a poll worker told voters on Election Day that one of the candidates in the city election had died.
The state board ruled that that poll worker’s actions may have affected the outcome of the race for Dobson’s Board of Commissioners.
On Monday, the board unanimously ordered a new election for two Dobson commissioner seats.
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A candidate, Sharon Gates-Hodges, died before Election Day but after early voting had started, meaning her name appeared on the Nov. 8 ballot.
On Election Day, a poll worker told voters that a candidate had died – at times appearing to indicate another candidate and not Hodges, according to The Charlotte Observer.
The worker also told voters they had to pick two candidates, which may have made people feel obligated to vote for two people when they could have opted for just one.
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, got eight fewer votes than the second-place candidate and protested the results.
A Surry County voter also protested the results.
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.
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, who chairs the State Board of Elections, said the board does not take lightly its decision to order a new election.
“When issues arise, there are procedures in place to remedy them, and that’s where we are now,” Circosta said during the meeting.
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 a complaint was lodged alleging the men “violated election law, duties imposed on board members, and/or participation in irregularities or incompetence to discharge the duties of the office,” the state board said in a statement.
A date of the hearings had not been scheduled.