Photos by Max Cooper
More than two months after election day, Ellen Frost was sworn in Jan. 15 as the seventh Buncombe County commissioner, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority of the board’s seats.
“It’s been a long time since the election. It feels great, and I’m ready to get to work,” said Frost soon after the being sworn in by N.C. District Court judge Calvin Hill. Her granddaughter, Lexi Allen, held the bible under her hand and her daughter, Liz Allen, stood at her side.
The move came just hours after Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied Republican Christina Kelley G. Merrill’s request to prevent a certificate of election being issued in the District 2 race. A Dec. 7 hand recount of all the District 2 ballots showed Frost with an 18 vote win, earning a second place finish and a two year term. (Republican Mike Fryar won first place and a four year term). However, certification of the results had been stalled pending a series of appeals by Merrill, who charged that many ballots of Warren Wilson College residents were illegally included in the results.
An unofficial tally of results on election night, Nov. 6, showed Merrill with a lead, but it was erased in subsequent tallies when a number of provisional ballots cast by residents of the left-leaning campus were added.
However, both the Buncombe County Board of Elections and the North Carolina Board of Elections denied her charges that there was any misconduct involved and her request for an evidentiary hearing on the matter. In his Jan. 15 ruling, Ridgeway denied any further delay on certifying the election results based on his judgement that Merrill was unlikely to prevail in any additional appeals.
Merrill and her legal team made their case to the judge in Wake County last Friday, Jan. 11. Bob Deutsch, lawyer for Frost, says he believes any legal actions Merrill might take after his client was sworn in would be moot. But responding to the news via her Facebook page, Merrill declared: “… the fact remains that the move of nearly 200 Voters from D-1 [District 1] to D-2 [District 2] that changed the original winning results of this election is still highly irregular – still have not had a hearing to address this.”
Buncombe County Board of Elections chair Jones Byrd quickly signed a certificate of election after Ridgeway’s decision.
Frost was sworn in at the end of the commissioners Jan. 15 meeting during a recess after all actions for the evening had been taken. She then joined the other board members for a brief closed session to discuss an undisclosed economic development matter.