By DEUCE NIVEN
Provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of the race for Columbus County sheriff and a decision on the legal sale of mixed drinks in Tabor City will be counted during a meeting of the Columbus County Board of Elections that begins at 11 a.m. Thursday.
That meeting had been scheduled for 5 p.m., a schedule posted on the Board of Elections website had said for several weeks. Elections Supervisor Carla Strickland, in a notice sent Wednesday morning, said the 5 p.m. meeting will involve a “sample Hand eye Audit” and that a “supplemental Absentee Meeting” will take place after the 11 a.m. meeting.
Most expect the 11 a.m. meeting to be lengthy with 150 provisional ballots from across the county in the Nov. 6 general election and the early voting that led up to it. That includes 53 provisional ballots from South Williams Precinct at the Tabor City District Courthouse, where election day voting was extended by an hour and 50 minutes because ballots for voters who live inside the town limits were not there when polls opened, at 6:30 a.m., and not delivered until about 8:20 a.m., elections officials said.
Provisional ballots are offered to a voter when there are questions about their qualifications or eligibility to vote.
It appears that 30 of the 53 ballots cast at South Williams were from voters living inside the town limits, with the potential for a significant impact on the liquor-by-the-drink vote that stands with 385 votes for approval, 378 against, just a seven-vote margin.
In the race for sheriff, with provisional ballots uncounted, Republican challenger Jody Greene holds a narrow 52-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Lewis Hatcher, 9,353 to 9,301.
Whatever happens during Thursday’s elections meetings will be prelude to an 11 a.m. meeting Friday to canvas the votes. With the races for sheriff and involving alcohol so close, there is potential for recount requests, with decisions in both contests currently unclear.
Look for more here as events warrant, and a recap in the next Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.