By DEUCE NIVEN
An order in the long disputed Columbus County sheriff’s race was issued by the State Board of Elections (SBOE)Wednesday, affirming the board’s decisions during a May 6 hearing held in Raleigh.
The order affirms the SBOE decisions that irregularities in last November’s general election were not sufficient to change the outcome of the race, and that the Columbus County Board of Elections erred in a ruling that candidate Jody Greene was not a resident of the county for purposes of the election.
With the order a ten-day timetable begins for a potential appeal to Wake County Superior Court. Copies of the order were sent by FedEx Wednesday, with delivery presumably expected Thursday.
Oscar Blanks, the Whiteville attorney representing former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, has said he plans to appeal the state board ruling.
Columbus County Board of Elections members met Tuesday, but could not certify the election because the written order had not yet been issued. Even if an appeal is filed on behalf of Hatcher, a certificate of election could be issued in June for Greene, even as the appeal winds its way through the courts.
Finding that election irregularities were not enough to change the outcome of the election, the county board got the law right, the order said.
But finding that Greene failed to meet the statutory requirements of a resident was an error, the order said.
Local board members split 3-2 along party lines in the ruling that Greene was not a resident of Cerro Gordo, as he claimed, for at least a year prior to the election last November. That decision came after the county board visited the property, including a camper trailer Greene said was his residence.
Board members, at least the Democrats, said they were unconvinced that Greene would be a resident of a camper when he had homes in Lumberton and North Myrtle Beach.
“Rather than seek to establish the same, the majority below gave undue weight to the mobile features of a recreational vehicle, and the abstract improbability that an individual would choose a recreational vehicle over other housing to which he the candidate had ready access,” the state board said, referencing the county board’s majority. “A candidate need not choose a residence with characteristics preferred by the majority; the majority must determine which residence the candidate in fact chose.”
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