The Buncombe County Board of Elections finished a full week of counting judicial ballots by hand on Monday morning. It was the second round of instant-runoff voting for the N.C. Court of Appeals seat originally contested by 13 candidates, and the second- and third-place preferences marked on the original ballots had to be tallied in order to determine a winner. Unofficially, candidate Cressie Thigpen retained first place in county voting but slipped in statewide totals, yielding his original lead to second-round opponent, Doug McCullough.
“It certainly took some man-hours to complete, because we are a paper-ballot county, but we did our best to carry it through as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Trena Parker, director of the BCBOE, said about the hand counting. Speaking to the Xpress by phone after the second-round tally was done, Parker said 12 to 15 people worked on the count over the course of the week. “I guess it’s one week of hard work as opposed to a month or six weeks of hard work,” she added philosophically, since the IRV method saved the office from setting up and managing an entire runoff election.
Still, it may have to happen all over again. The closeness of the unofficial statewide numbers could result in a call for recount, which would present yet another wrinkle in the first IRV race on a state ballot. (For an explanation of the IRV process, see “Not So Instant.”)
In the original 13-person, first-place count statewide, Thigpen placed first with 20.33 percent of the vote, and McCullough followed with 15.21 percent. In the second-round count in Buncombe County, Thigpen picked up an unofficial 5,822 for a total of 17,780; McCullough picked up 6,119, bringing his total to 12,919. But according to a Dec. 6 AP report, Thigpen’s original 100,000-vote statewide lead was overcome by McCullough in round two, and McCullough is now unofficially ahead by some 6,700 — a margin that would enable Thigpen to request a recount. That request would need to be filed by Thursday.
— Freelance reporter Nelda Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.