State elections board set to consider Merrill’s appeal over Warren Wilson votes

The N.C. Board of Elections will meet Dec. 13 at 10 a.m. in Raleigh to consider District 2 Republican candidate Christina Kelley G. Merrill’s protest over hundreds of ballots cast by residents of Warren Wilson College.

The District 2 race will determine which party holds a majority on the expanded seven-member board.

On Nov. 28, the Buncombe County Board of Elections voted 2-1 to deny Merrill’s call for a full legal hearing and her request to discount the ballots of Warren Wilson residents from the District 2 race. The small liberal arts school is divided between commissioner district 1 and 2; Merrill’s initial protest raised questions over the legality of the process used by the Buncombe County Election Services Department to determine which district they live in.

However, the Buncombe County Board of Elections determined Nov. 28 that local officials were correctly following the state board’s directives and instructions on how to determine the proper residencies of voters at the school. The board decided at the preliminary hearing that “there appears to be no probable cause to believe a violation of election law, irregularity, or misconduct has occurred,” according to the written decision filed by Chairman Jones Byrd, a Democrat (Download a copy below).

Meanwhile, in the written appeal filed by Merrill, she charges that the “BCBOE failed to properly consider the protest” by denying her the ability to present evidence and testimony or examine the ballots in question, among other allegations. Her requested remedy from the state board is to reverse the local board’s dismissal, hold a full legal hearing, and grant the initial request to remove Warren Wilson ballots from the results.

A hand recount of all the ballots in District 2 showed Merrill with an 18-vote deficit behind Democrat Ellen Frost and a seat on the board of commissioners. Frost has charged that the protest is an attempt to disenfranchise student voters.

The state board won’t certify the District 2 winners until after its Dec. 13 hearing. Appointed by the governor, the state board has three Democrats and two Republicans.

Click here to download a copy of Merrill’s official filings with the local and state boards, as well as the local board’s written ruling on her initial protest.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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