The New Hanover County Board of Elections announced the official results of the primary election during a May 12 canvass, ruling no runoff election or recount is necessary despite close numbers in the county commission race.
Candidates Skip Watkins and Dr. Derrick Hickey will proceed to the general election. Watkins received 5,658 votes, or 24.93 percent, and Hickey received 5,501 votes, or 24.24 percent. Dr. Chuck Kays came in a close third place with 5,224 votes, or 23.02 percent.
Since Watkins and Hickey garnered a substantial plurality of the vote, in this case 20 percent, a runoff election is not required. The 277-vote gap between Hickey and Kays was not wide enough to warrant a recount.
“If they had been within 107 votes or less of each other, there would have a recount but not a second primary,” said Marvin McFadyen, county board of elections director.
In the school board race, Don Hayes received 8,177 votes, or 22.41 percent; Bruce Shell received 7,874 votes, or 21.58 percent; Ed Higgins received 7,314 votes, or 20.05 percent; and Janice Cavenaugh received 7,147 votes, or 19.59 percent.
Sheriff Ed McMahon secured 7,645 votes to Sid Causey’s 1,875 votes, winning the Democratic nomination for his position. McMahon will face Republican Jason Vaughn in November. Vaughn acquired 5,931 votes to opponent Marc Benson’s 4,886.
Voter turnout for the May 6 election was 14.76 percent with 22,896 ballots cast. Roughly 4 percent of votes were absentee ballots submitted by mail or cast at one-stop locations.
Voter turnout in the county was lower in 2014 than 2010, McFadyen said.
“[In 2010], total turnout was just over 18 percent, so we are down roughly 4 percent. From what I’ve seen across the state, the average was around 15 percent [for 2014],” McFayden said.
The results were audited the night of the election, yielding discrepancies in three precincts on Election Day including a voter who cast two ballots at precinct W28, Devon Park Methodist Church on Winston Boulevard.
An incident report filed at the precinct states a voter cast a ballot, left the precinct and then returned and told precinct officials he or she received the wrong ballot. The voter was issued and voted a second ballot.
“That should not have been the process the precinct official used. The most the precinct official should have done is issued that voter a provisional ballot, sealed that ballot and allowed the Board of Elections to make the determination as to the validity of that voter’s request,” McFadyen said.
Under state law, ballots cast on Election Day are anonymous immediately after they are cast so it is impossible to know if the first ballot was incorrect.
“It’s all circumstantial. There’s no physical evidence showing that that individual received the wrong ballot,” McFadyen said.
McFadyen noted it is the responsibility of the precinct official and the voter to verify authorization to vote and issuance of the correct ballot before voting occurs.
“If they notice the situation before casting the ballot, it can be rectified. After, it cannot be,” McFadyen said.
Board chairman John Ferrante called for education efforts like a public service announcement to avoid similar problems in the future.
The county’s official results will be submitted to the state board of elections.