By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on November 12, 2019
The possibility of a recount looms in a Manteo Commissioners race after the Election Day results left incumbent Hannon Fry (154 votes) with a razor slim two-vote lead over challenger Jason Borland (152).
But first, there has to be some more vote counting in the next few days, and possibly, even a hearing over a disputed ballot.
According to Dare County Board of Elections Chairperson Sandy Semans Ross, the Board of Elections will meet on Wednesday, Nov. 13 to count provisional ballots, military and overseas ballots that were emailed or faxed, and late absentee ballots that were postmarked by the Nov. 5 Election Day deadline and received by Friday, Nov. 8. Those newly counted votes could change the margin and positioning between Fry and Borland.
Then on Friday, Nov. 15, as Ross explained, the Elections Board will meet to conduct its vote canvass, which will produce the county’s final, albeit still unofficial, vote tally to be turned into the state. But right before the canvass, the Board will take up the issue of a disputed vote cast by a someone who appears to live in unincorporated Dare County, but who cast a Manteo ballot since voter rolls showed him eligible there.
If the individual shows up to make the case his vote should count, the Election Board will hold a hearing. If he doesn’t, his vote will be discounted.
If all this sounds somewhat nitpicky, remember that in order for a candidate to request a recount, the margin of defeat has to be within one percent, which means a single vote could make a difference. Semans said that if circumstances worked out that way, a candidate could ask for a recount right after the Nov. 15 canvass and that recount could be conducted immediately.
For his part, Borland told the Voice that he would attend the Nov. 13 ballot count, adding that if the margin remained within one percent after the canvas and he was still trailing, he would “probably” ask for a recount. Not doing so, he noted, is “kind of a slap in the face of the people who supported me.”
What if a recount produces a tie? Well, there can be one more recount. That’s what happened in the very same Manteo two years ago when two recounts still produced a deadlock between Martha Wickre and Richie Burke in the race for a commissioner’s seat in that town.
At that point, the two candidates drew straws to determine who would call the deciding coin flip. Wickre picked the bigger straw, but then lost the seat when she called heads and the coin landed on tails.
For the record, after the flip Burke indicated that he would have called heads as well had he picked the longer straw.
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