Protest dismissed

Published 10:26 am Monday, November 16, 2015

WINTON – The Hertford County Board of Elections has dismissed a protest filed by a challenger seeking the Ward B seat on the Ahoskie Town Council.

In a unanimous decision reached at a special called meeting on Monday night at the Hertford County Courthouse, the three-member board ruled there was no sustainable evidence as to any violation of the law and dismissed the protest filed by Donald Kirkland.

Kirkland filed the protest on Oct. 29, five days before the municipal election on Nov. 3, claiming that incumbent Ward B Councilman Maurice Vann resided in Ward A, although the paperwork on file with the Board of Elections office in Winton showed Vann’s address as 222 Malibu Drive, which is in Ward B.

Kirkland alleged that Vann’s residence was at 317 Maple Street, which is in Ward A.

In his protest, Kirkland alleged that Vann “falsely used his parent’s address (222 Malibu Drive) as his physical residence” and that the board should “void his eligibility to Ahoskie Town Council Ward B.”

As part of the documentation filed by Kirkland on Oct. 29, he maintained, in a letter, that, “I was called by multiple residents in Ahoskie today concerning Maurice Vann’s election eligibility. They told me his physical address is 317 Maple Street. This address is his physical address as observed and witnessed by me as well. With this issue, it violates the residency laws for candidacy and substantially impedes my ability to a fair election.”

In response to Kirkland’s claims, Vann stated that he did indeed rent a home at 317 Maple Street (where he lives with his wife and child), which is located adjacent to his place of employment (Reynolds Funeral Home) where he is on-call and works unscheduled hours.

Citing North Carolina General Statute 163-57(9a), Vann said the law allows for a residence outside of a domiciled area.

Don Wright, General Counsel for the North Carolina Board of Elections, clarified that Statute.

“A person may have an actual abode (residence) in one place, and his permanent established home (domicile) in another,” Wright wrote. “A domicile is the place to which the person intends to return. The law requires all persons to have only one domicile for voting purposes.”

Vann informed the local Board of Elections that he has never abandoned his domicile at 222 Malibu Drive.

“My lifelong domicile is 222 Malibu Drive, which is my family home, and to which I have always maintained an intent to return,” Vann told the local Elections Board. “I possess the key and have unfettered access (to 222 Malibu Drive). At both properties I maintain a bedroom, house my personal property, and receive official mail. My voter registration has always been 222 Malibu Drive and I have never had a reason to change it.”

Additionally, Vann stated that he had rented the home on Maple Street since 2001.

Vann won re-election by a landslide, defeating Kirkland 236-30.

Kirkland was formally notified on Tuesday of the board’s decision from Monday’s meeting. By law, Kirkland has five days (from Tuesday) to file an appeal of the local board’s decision with the North Carolina Board of Elections.

“I filed an appeal on Thursday with the State Board,” Kirkland said during a telephone interview with the News-Herald.

He added that the local board misinterpreted NCGS 163-57(9a).

“That statute applies to those elected at the state and federal level; they have a domicile within their district from which they are elected and then have a secondary or temporary home in either Raleigh or Washington, D.C from where they carry out their duties of the elected office,” Kirkland claimed. “NCGS 160-59(a) is the applicable statute in this case. It states that a city/town council member must reside in the district which they are representing. That’s especially true in the case when cities or towns elect representation by district, which we do here in Ahoskie.”

Kirkland went on to claim that Vann failed to proved residency in Ward A.

“I asked if he was renting or making a mortgage payment at 317 Maple Street, and he said he had a mortgage there,” Kirkland alleged. “I ask him what address did he use to file his state and federal taxes, and he said 317 Maple Street.

“I believe Mr. Vann has abandoned his domicile on Malibu Drive and moved it to Maple Street,” Kirkland added.

In other news from the Hertford County Board of Elections, they conducted the mandated canvass on Tuesday of all municipal polling places and there was one change that affected the race for Winton Town Council.

When the votes were counted last week, there was a tie for the fifth and final seat on the Winton Council where incumbents Wesley Liverman and Will Liverman (father and son) were locked in a 69-69 stalemate.

Hertford County Board of Elections Director Shelia Privott said the canvass broke that deadlock as Wesley Liverman was awarded one additional vote (by provisional ballot) and defeated his son, 70-69, for the final seat.

Also, in the balloting for Harrellsville Town Council, the fifth seat on that board was awarded to Emma Perry who received 10 write-in votes.

Only four individuals had filed for the Harrellsville Council and each was elected on Nov. 3 – incumbents Deborah Baker (15 votes), Ray Worrells (15), and Lisa Hunnicutt (14) along with newcomer Ronnie Revelle (14).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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