LUMBERTON — The race for mayor of Pembroke, which began in November and continued in March, might soon be resolved.
Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said this week that he has received the last information he needs from Pembroke and Robeson County to have his board meet and make a final determination of whether all voters who cast ballots in a March do-over of the November election live within Pembroke town limits.
Stone was still reviewing the information Friday and said that a special Board of Elections meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the board’s office on North Walnut Street in Lumberton to put to rest all lingering questions about the election’s final results.
“This meeting will be to discuss the information gathered to answer concerns raised about the eligibility of several voters, and prepare a status update to present to the state Board of Elections for its review,” Stone said. “No action will be taken at this meeting. The board will set the date for a future hearing to finally resolve this issue.
“I expect that everything will be resolved by our board within the next 10 to 14 days.”
At the end of May, the state Board of Elections ruled that the Robeson County Board of Elections would have to resolve a protest filed by mayoral candidate Allen Dial. Dial, who was six votes behind Greg Cummings in a March do-over mayoral election, had challenged the eligibility of about 30 voters. After hearing the protest, state board members questioned the status of about seven voters who live in three homes.
Stone said the homes of the questionable voters are close to the town border and there is a discrepancy between where the county and Pembroke determine municipal boundaries. Stone said after the state board hearing that the discrepancy between the county’s GIS mapping system and what the town considers its border could have been caused by annexation.
G.L. Pridgen, director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said his staff has gathered all of the necessary information for the three-member Board of Elections and is just waiting for a hearing on the issue.
“We are ready to go,” Pridgen said. “The board will have to meet to decide which voters, if any, should not have their votes count. It’s in the board’s hands now.”
Pridgen said he hopes the local board will move quickly to resolve the issue that has prevented Cummings from taking office since his apparent victory in the March 15 election.
“It is hard for us to move ahead and work on the next election when we are still working on this one,” Pridgen said.
The March 15 do-over election was ordered by the state Board of Elections in January after members determined that there was enough evidence of voter irregularities, possible fraud and missteps by the local Board of Elections to warrant a new election.
On April 25, the county Board of Elections voted unanimously to dismiss Dial’s protests for lack of substantial evidence that could cast doubt on the results of the election. He appealed that decision to the state board, which sent the matter back to the county for corrective action.
Dial had favored a new election, saying vote-buying tainted the March 15 results.
Pembroke has been without a mayor since the death of Milton Hunt more than a year ago. Councilman Channing Jones has been conducting meetings as mayor pro tem.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.