Wray’s protest dismissed

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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JACKSON – Northampton County’s Board of Elections unanimously voted here Monday to dismiss an election protest filed concerning the State House District 27 race.

District 27 includes Northampton, Halifax, and Warren counties where Michael H. Wray is the Democrat incumbent. But according to results from the March 5 primary, he was narrowly defeated by challenger Rodney D. Pierce for the Democratic nomination.

No Republicans filed for the seat, meaning that the winner of the primary will face no opposition during the general election in November.

Following the county canvass on Friday (March 15) to certify the election results, a margin of 35 votes separates the two candidates. Pierce received 5,987 votes (50.15 percent) to Wray’s 5,952 votes (49.85 percent). In Northampton County, however, Wray came out ahead of Pierce by a margin of 197 votes (1,813 for Wray and 1,616 for Pierce).

On March 15, Wray filed election protests in all three counties, requesting that the local election boards take a closer look at ballots that were rejected. Northampton’s Board of Elections held a special meeting on March 18 to consider that request.

Wray’s protest in Northampton County alleged that one voter in Severn was provided an incorrect ballot style which was only “partially” counted. According to the protest document, the voter had voted a Democratic primary ballot in each of the past six elections, and “should be allowed to cast a full Democratic ballot.”

The protest document stated that Wray was seeking a correction to the vote count and investigations of any irregularities noted. He was not calling for a new election to be held.

During Monday’s meeting, the Board first had to determine if the protest met the requirements for consideration, including whether it was properly filled out and if it was filed in a timely manner. They determined that the protest did meet all the requirements.

Northampton County Board of Elections Director Spinosa Clements then explained the circumstances concerning the ballot in question.

Clements stated that the voter was given a provisional ballot on Election Day because she requested to vote a Republican ballot. The deadline to change party affiliation before the primary election, however, was February 9. Because voters cannot change their party affiliation on Election Day, the voter was given a Republican provisional ballot to fill out instead.

Board of Elections member Myron Grueneich asked if the chief judge at that precinct had been questioned. Clements answered that she actually was the one onsite at the time who gave the provisional ballot to the voter and explained the procedure and rules to the voter.

“It appears everything was done by the book,” Grueneich said.

He then motioned to dismiss the protest. The board voted unanimously in favor, and then adjourned the meeting.

The outcomes of Wray’s protests pending before the Halifax County Board of Elections and the Warren County Board of Elections were not available as of the R-C News-Herald’s presstime on Tuesday afternoon.