Re-elected East Spencer mayor to face Board of Elections hearing

Published 12:10 am Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Rowan County Board of Elections voted Friday to have a full hearing for allegations brought against newly re-elected East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett.

In a preliminary hearing with the board, formal mayoral candidate Rhonda Kerns accused Mallett of violating campaign laws during elections Tuesday. Mallett received 181 votes and Kerns received 39 votes.

Kerns told the board that she allegedly witnessed Mallett escorting elderly voters and voters who got out at the curb to the polls. North Carolina General Statue 163-166.4 states that candidates may not solicit votes, post signs or hand out campaign literature within a buffer zone around the building. The buffer zone is determined by the County Board of Elections, but the law states that it can be no less than 25 feet and no more than 50 feet.

Kerns said that not only did Mallett escort voters past other candidates so that they were unable to campaign, she allegedly followed them inside the buffer zone and into the building itself.

“I thought she was going to turn and come back out,” Kerns said, “She did not.”

Kerns presented the board a photo she took Tuesday of Mallett walking a woman to the door of the enclosure. Kerns said Mallett allegedly followed her inside. Board member John Hudson presented the photo to Mallett, asking if the woman pictured was related to her in any way. Mallett stated she did not know who the woman was.

Kerns also showed a video she took on her cellphone of Mallett escorting a voter beyond the legal campaigning area, and into the building. Kerns reported that Mallett did not come out until the woman had finished voting. The board confirmed that in the video Mallett walked beyond a clearly visible sign indicating the buffer zone.

According to Kerns, Mallett allegedly escorted between 85 and 90 voters to the polls. Kerns also stated that Mallett’s son and daughter were allegedly handing out campaign materials, including pre-marked ballots, inside the buffer zone.

Board of Elections Director Nancy Evans says that the board will be checking to determine if the buffer zone for East Spencer’s polling place was less than 50 feet due to close proximity to the road. This will determine if the no-campaigning sign was placed correctly and if Mallett did violate the buffer zone.

Kern also accused several poll workers of being biased in favor of Mallett. Kerns told the board that Mallett was close friends with several of the judges, and said that she witnessed a judge allegedly go through Mallett’s purse, pull out campaign materials and pocket them. Kerns also accused Mallett of having votes from Shady Grove Baptist Church and New Hope AME Zion church “in her pocket,” and stated that, although the Board of Elections reported that 247 ballots were cast in East Spencer, not that many came to the polls. The Board of Elections reports that in East Spencer, 228 ballots were cast at the poll, 18 ballots were cast using one-stop voting and one absentee ballot was cast.

Kerns said that when an incumbent violates polling law like that, it’s intimidating and makes people feel like they can’t do anything to change the current administration.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “It’s not fair for the next person. It’s not fair for our children.”

Mallett chose not to comment during the preliminary hearing and declined to comment to the Post.

The Board of Elections believed that the evidence presented was grounds enough for a full hearing. The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. at the Rowan County Administrative Offices in the Commissioner’s Room on the second floor.

The board will make a decision based on the finding of facts and the order of law and if Mallett is found to have violated law or if the board believes there are grounds for a re-election, the decision will be sent to the District Attorney’s office or the State Board of Elections to be handed down.