• 45°

Ex- GOP lawmaker charged with assaulting poll worker in Wake Forest

By BRYAN ANDERSON

Associated Press/Report for America

RALEIGH (AP) — A former North Carolina Republican lawmaker who was observing an early voting site in Wake Forest on behalf of his party was charged Friday with a Class 3 misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a poll worker.

Gary Pendleton, a 73-year-old former state House lawmaker and former Wake County commissioner, confirmed the charge. He said he had pushed an early voting official who he says blocked his pathway to enter the polling site around 7:30 a.m.

At the direction of his county party, Pendleton said he had sought to gain access to the site an hour before the polls opened at 8 a.m. to make sure no fraudulent voting activities were taking place. He said he was met by a security guard who refused him entrance.

When he asked for a supervisor to let him in, the supervisor instructed him that he’d have to wait outside. Frustrated with the experience, Pendleton tried to re-enter about 20 minutes later, where he was again refused entry by the same elections official.

“He was on one side, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just go around you,'” Pendleton said. “So I went around, he jumped over in front of me about 3 feet (away) mouth to mouth. I pushed him back because I don’t want to get COVID-19.”

Gary Sims, Wake County’s elections director, and Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, confirmed the incident had taken place. Sims said poll workers should never be faced with violence.

“Nobody comes to work expecting to be assaulted,” Sims said.

Law enforcement arrived after the polls opened and cited Pendleton with the Class 3 misdemeanor. He then left the early voting site.

Pendleton said the officers who cited him compared his violation to “hunting without a hunting license.” The Wake County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident.

Pendleton will not be permitted to serve as a poll observer for the rest of this election cycle, Gannon said. He plans to appeal the assault charge in court.
The North Carolina Republican Party condemned Pendleton’s actions and expressed apologies on his behalf.

“Our training specifically prohibits any attempt to obstruct a voter or inhibit the election process,” said a statement from the party’s press secretary, Tim Wigginton. “Gary Pendleton violated our policy with his actions today, and he will no longer be volunteering. He acknowledges his mistake and apologizes for his action.”

Pendleton minimized his actions, insisting he did not shove the worker to the ground and was incapable of causing physical harm to the assistant supervisor who had denied him entry.

“I’m a 73-year-old partially disabled veteran,” Pendleton said. “This guy was about 50. I don’t think I could’ve done much damage to him.”

Pendleton said he monitored a different early voting site in Wake County on Thursday, where he was granted access before the polls opened at 8 a.m. When he was denied access to the Wake Forest location on Friday, he was confused by the inconsistency and felt he had been deliberately mistreated because of his political party.

“This is a Democrat-Republican thing, and I’m probably one of the most well-known Republicans in the county,” Pendleton said.

Sims confirmed some poll observers had been wrongfully permitted to enter early-voting facilities on Thursday before voting began at 8 a.m. He said he informed those sites that workers should not let people into buildings before 8 a.m. going forward.

Sims said poll observers are allowed to monitor voting activities but not the site meetings, time sheet completion and turning on of the machines, which takes place before the doors open.

“The purpose of an observer is to observe the voting,” Sims said.
He also pushed back against allegations of poll workers exhibiting a bias favoring Democrats.

“That is not a fair statement,” Sims said of Pendleton’s claims. “I understand that may be a defensive statement, but that’s not a fair statement.”

___

Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.

___

Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Comments

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

Cleveland

Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team

Education

All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18

Education

Shoutouts: Southern City Church awards educational gifts

Local

City to pave streets surrounding Bell Tower Green after park is constructed

Nation/World

Colonial Pipeline restarts operations days after major hack

Nation/World

Ohio’s million-dollar idea: Lottery prizes for vaccinations

Nation/World

GOP dumps defiant Trump critic Cheney from top House post

Nation/World

Israel steps up Gaza offensive, kills senior Hamas figures

Coronavirus

Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County

Crime

Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison

Kannapolis

City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Education

East Spencer charter school files petition to contest charter revocation