Additional ballots widen Klusman’s lead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pending a recount, the Republican sweep of the Rowan County Commissioner’s race is now official.

An additional 191 ballots — 142 absentee and 49 provisional — were added Monday to the total number of ballots cast in Rowan County. Republican Judy Klusman maintained her third-place result in the commissioners race and even increased her lead over unaffiliated candidate Raymond Coltrain slightly.

In the initial general election results, Klusman received 12,980 votes and Coltrain received 12,904. After adding the additional votes, Klusman led by 103 over Coltrain.

Monday’s added ballots mean that Klusman is the third member of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. She joins Republicans Jim Greene, who came in first; Greg Edds, who came in second; Mike Caskey, a current commissioner; and current Vice Chairman Craig Pierce.

The election results won’t become final until Friday, when the Board of Elections has its official canvass — the certification of the vote.

After hearing the results of the election, Klusman, who attended Monday’s meeting, was ecstatic. She was relatively quiet during the meeting, but walked into the lobby of the county’s Board of Elections department grinning from ear to ear.

“I was relieved,” Klusman said. “I’m extremely happy and humbled for someone who has only been here seven years, coming from up North and being a woman, much less a woman pastor. Whoever won between the two of us, we knew there would be a good commission.”

Klusman, who was previously a state legislator in Wisconsin, said the race was the closest she had ever been in. It’s also the closest race for any two candidates in a county commissioner race since 1998, which is when Rowan County’s electronic records began. In the 1998 race, Republican Arnold Chamberlain beat out Republican Frank Tadlock for a seat on the county board by just 45 votes.

Klusman’s lead still falls within the margin needed for a recount and Coltrain has until Monday, Nov. 17, to request a recount.

Coltrain was traveling out of state Monday for work and said he hadn’t thoroughly considered whether he would request a recount.

“I haven’t even got that far in the thought process,” Coltrain said. “I got the information today and am considering the options.”

All of the commissioner candidates saw a change in vote totals after including additional absentee and provisional ballots.

The changes in vote totals include:

• Republican Jim Greene, who came in first place — Greene’s vote tally immediately following the election was 19,451. It increased to 19,553 with the additional votes.

• Republican Greg Edds, who came in second place — Edds’ vote tally was 18,055 after initial election results. It increased to 18,152 on Monday.

• Unaffiliated candidate Gene Miller, who came in fifth place — Miller’s initial vote tally was 11,663. It increased to 11,714.

• Democrat Rick Locklear, who came in sixth place — Locklear’s initial vote count was 11,204. It increased to 11,255

• Democrat Leda Belk, who came in seventh place — Belk’s initial vote count was 11,011. It increased to 11,055.

• Unaffiliated candidate Chris Cohen — Cohen’s initial vote count was 6,899. It increased to 6,926.

Other Returns

With the added votes, about 75 percent of the more than 1,000 total absentee ballots were returned.

Elections Director Nancy Evans said the total number of absentee ballots was higher than previous years, largely due to the fact that political groups sent out mass mailers for residents to submit absentee ballots.

Evans said about six absentee ballots weren’t accepted either because they weren’t postmarked correctly or because they didn’t have a witness sign the ballot.

Two additional provisional ballots were denied. Evans said the ballots were cast after voters accidentally submitted a blank ballot. Evans said the voters saw others putting ballots into a machine during early voting and went directly to the machine to submit ballots before voting.

“Well, to me, that was their vote,” said Board of Elections member John Hudson.

A total of 180 provisional ballots were cast, according to Evans. Only 49 were accepted. Provisional ballots can be cast for a number of reasons. Evans said the ones that were approved Monday included voters who may have registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but the registration wasn’t completed by DMV employees. Or, voters may have not voted for several elections and were subsequently purged, Evans said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246