WINTERVILLE, N.C. – Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway decided from the bench on Friday, December 29, 2017, that the Pitt County Board of Elections exceeded its power when it revoked the 2017 Winterville Town Council election certification. The order found that the initial certificate of election must stand and that Ricky Hines, the one-vote victor in the town council race, should be seated at the next Winterville Town Council Meeting.
The official order was signed on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, and can be found at http://bit.ly/WintervilleOrder.
“Mr. Hines was harmed when he was illegally kept from taking the office to which he was elected,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We have structures established by law for protesting elections. When voters choose not to file such election protests, elections must be finalized. We appreciate the court’s recognition that elections need finality and that elections boards cannot revoke a certificate of election.”
Mr. Ricky Hines won a seat on the Winterville Town Council in November’s election. His election was made official when the Pitt County Board of Elections issued him a certificate of election on November 27.
However, during the election, a geocoding error resulted in ten voters being given ballots to vote in the municipal election even though their residences were on a street planned to be annexed but were not yet part of the town. Mr. Hines’s opponent requested a recount which confirmed the earlier result: Ricky Hines defeating incumbent John Hill by one vote. Even though this error was known, no one in Winterville, including the losing candidate, filed an election protest. With no protest pending, the Chair of the Pitt County Board of Elections, Patrick Nelson, properly issued a certificate of election.
It was only after conversations initiated by staff members of the NC State board of Elections, well after the election certificate had been issued, that the Pitt County Board of Elections then requested a new election and revoked the certificate of election. Judge Ridgeway found that the Pitt County Board of Elections did not have the authority to revoke the certification.
“I am grateful to have resolution on this matter. We have important work to do on behalf of the citizens of Winterville and I look forward to serving my community as a councilman,” concluded Ricky Hines.