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Elections Board denies appeal

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Elections has denied an appeal on a petition for Register of Deeds.

Friday afternoon the board met in a called session to render a decision on an appeal from Evelyn Wilson-Lee, who had filed a petition to seek the office of Bertie County Register of Deeds.

The original petition filed by Wilson-Lee was denied by the Board of Elections based on North Carolina General Statute 163-122. Section 163-122 (b) gives the heading which must be carried on each page of the petition. That heading includes specifying the office being sought by the unaffiliated candidate.

“Twelve pages of your petition, containing 205 signatures, do not state the name of the county office for which you wish to be a candidate and so we cannot accept the signatures on those pages,” Board of Elections Chairman Mike Freeman said in a letter to Wilson-Lee dated July 1.

“The remaining signatures, if all are valid, would be insufficient to give you the 535 signatures needed to qualify in order for your name to be placed on the ballot.”

Wilson-Lee responded on July 5 appealing the decision.

“…I am appealing the decision, based on the fact that my petition was submitted on June 23, 2008 (and) the deadline was noon July 27, 2008,” she wrote. “I feel that someone from the election board office could have, and should have notified me prior to the deadline allowing me to make the necessary corrections, especially when there was only one unaffiliated candidate running for Register of Deeds.”

The Bertie elections board met to hear that appeal on Wednesday, July 9.

After opening the meeting, Freeman recognized Wilson-Lee to make her appeal.

“My letter states all I want to say,” Wilson-Lee said.

Freeman then reminded her the burden of proof was on her since she was the one making the appeal.

Wilson-Lee said she introduced herself to everyone she met and told them what she was running for and why she needed the signature.

Freeman said he understood her statement, but that the General Statutes were clear.

Wilson-Lee asked if the remainder of the signatures were checked and Freeman said they were not because they alone would not have given her enough signatures to comply.

“Once we realized the petition was not in compliance, that was enough to stop the process,” Freeman said.

Board secretary Carol Woodard said the statutes were clear that the name of the office being sought must appear on each page of the petition.

“That’s the law, so we don’t have a choice but to go by the law,” Woodard said. “I can understand how it could have happened, but we must go by the law.”

Board member Carroll Britt said he also understood that it was an oversight.

“The oversight doesn’t matter because the law is the law,” he said.”

After the hearing, Freeman adjourned the meeting. He later called for Friday’s meeting to render a decision on the appeal.

During Friday’s meeting, which Wilson-Lee did not attend, Britt said there was no way to uphold the appeal.

“We have laws we have to go by and I see no way we can approve it,” he said. “Intent is one thing, but actually doing it is another.”

Woodard agreed.

“The law is very clear,” she said.

Freeman agreed, saying the law clearly said the office should appear at the top and it didn’t.

Woodard moved to deny the appeal with Britt offering a second. It passed by a unanimous vote.