The recounted election results continue to show Democrat Ellen Frost with a slight lead over Republican Christina Kelley G. Merrill in the District 2 Buncombe County commissioners race.
Requested by Merrill, the results of the recount grow Frost’s edge from 13 votes to 17 votes, according to numbers released by the Buncombe County Board of Elections on the evening of Nov. 28. The same ballots were counted in both tallies; the slight discrepancy is the result of errors by the machines that read them, according to officials from the Buncombe County Department of Election Services.
In response, Merrill requested a “hand–to–eye” recount, which the board granted and scheduled to begin Monday morning, Dec. 3. Under state law, that means that only 3 percent of the ballots in District 2 will be counted by hand – taken from a randomly selected group of precincts.
If the results of the count differ from the previous results within those precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire district (based on the proportion of ballots recounted to the total votes cast for that office) would reverse the outcome, then the State Board of Elections could order a hand-to-eye recount of the entire district, according to North Carolina law.
“I’m still feeling like it’s important to make sure every vote is counted,” says Merrill, noting that the first recount does show some discrepancy.
“This is standard procedure when elections are so close,” she adds. “This is the next step in making sure every vote is counted properly.”
However, Frost asserts that it’s now time for Merrill to consider bowing out.
“We voted, we had a recount, the votes have been counted and counted and now it’s important to get down to doing the work Buncombe County residents want us to do,” she said. “I have an appreciation for the due diligence of the Board of Elections.”
The night before, the board denied Merrill’s request to consider striking the votes of dozens of Warren Wilson residents from the results. However, Merrill says she plans to appeal that decision to the State Board of Elections.
Meanwhile, both Frost and Merrill attended a commissioner orientation session earlier on Nov. 28 organized by the county. And they both said that county management has told them that no District 2 candidates will be sworn in on Dec. 3 when the new board is scheduled to take office and hold its first meeting. The District 2 race will decide which political party has a majority of the board’s seven seats.
The recounted results still show Republican Mike Fryar in first place and Democratic incumbent Carol Peterson in fourth. Under a new election system instituted by the North Carolina General Assembly last year, the top two vote–getters in each district win seats on the board. The margin separating all four candidates is only 123 votes, according to the recounted totals.
Peterson said she’ll wait to see the results of the hand recount before making any decision on conceding the race.
“The process continues and it’s a great process,” she said.
Nov. 29 recounted results:
Mike Fryar 19,991
Ellen Frost 19,903
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,886
Carol Peterson 19,868
Nov. 17 complete results:
Mike Fryar 19,993 votes
Ellen Frost 19,904 votes
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,891 votes
Carol Peterson 19,870 votes
Nov. 6 initial results:
Mike Fryar 19,904 votes
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,806 votes
Ellen Frost 19,719 votes
Carol Peterson 19,701 votes