Lee voter turnout exceeds expectations, state showing

Harnett tax measure passes; two tie for Siler City mayor
Nov. 06, 2013 @ 07:49 PM

Lee County Elections Director Nancy Kimble wouldn't call the overall 14.8 percent voter turnout in Tuesday's municipal election good, although she did say it was higher than expected.

It also beat the statewide turnout of 14.4 percent. There were 1,144 local races spread among 94 of the state's 100 counties with close to 490,000 of the state's 3.4 million eligible voters casting a ballot. In Sanford and Broadway — people who lived out in the county weren't eligible to vote in any of the races — 2,356 of the 15,908 potential voters cast ballots.

The numbers for the two towns can't be separated into an exact count because early voting statistics aren't recorded by precinct. But in Broadway, at least 192 of the town's 854 registered voters cast a ballot, meaning the town had a voter turnout of 22.5 percent or higher. Using the same math, no more than 2,164 of those voting were among the 15,054 registered Sanford voters, meaning Sanford had a turnout of 14.4 percent at best.

Kimble said there were 10 provisional ballots countywide — ballots that weren't immediately counted because of some issue, such as the voter going to the wrong precinct or having the wrong address in his or her records — but there were no plans for any recounts as of Wednesday morning.

Kimble also said Wednesday morning she had not heard of any complaints or issues regarding the election other than one machine in Broadway which she said broke but was quickly replaced.

SUBHEAD: Harnett County to raise sales tax

After much campaigning, supporters of a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Harnett County emerged victorious Tuesday, when the measure — which had failed four times in recent years — passed with more than 70 percent support. The sales tax rate will now be the same as in many neighboring counties, at 7 percent.

Maggy Gray, a western Harnett parent who founded the group Building a Better Harnett, which has pushed for the tax increase to go toward helping build new schools to relieve the county's overcrowding issues, said she was thrilled.

"It wasn't that it just won," she said. "It was a landslide. And I think the lesson here is a little bit of education on what you're putting on the ballot goes a long way. You can't just put something on the ballot, not tell people what it's for and expect them to vote for it. But if you educate them, they'll support it."

She said the eldest of her three children, who's in fourth grade, followed the process and got a great real-life civics lesson on the importance being involved. It's also a lesson she said she and her fellow activists are going to adhere to themselves.

"Obviously this is just the starting point to get the ball rolling," Gray said. "We need to find the things we can all get behind, which are bipartisan, to keep things going. ... We need to stay vigilant going to the meetings of the Board of Education and [Board of] Commissioners — and not necessarily pressure them, but remind them that we're still here and still paying attention."

SUBHEAD: Tie in Chatham County

After remaining empty since the death of Mayor Charles Johnson in January, the mayor's office in Siler City is still up in the air.

Three candidates campaigned to be the town's next mayor, with the two top vote-getters, John Grimes and Thomas "Chip" Price III, both receiving 288 votes for 48.9 percent of the vote apiece. The third candidate, Carlos Simpson, received nine votes, and four voters chose a write-in candidate.

Chatham County Elections Director Dawn Stumpf said it's the first time she's ever seen a tie. The next step, she said, is to count the "three or four" provisional ballots cast in Siler City, as well as any supplemental absentee ballots, which will happen Friday.

If that count produces a winner, Stumpf said, an official announcement will be made Tuesday, although the losing candidate could call for a recount. If there's still a tie after the Friday count or any potential recount, however, there won't be another election.

"If it's still tied, then the Board [of Elections] draws lots to see who wins," Stumpf said, adding that it's what state law dictates for such a case. "... We'll put their names in a hat or something like that and then pick one. And he'll be declared the winner."