Morrisville mayor fires back on ballot questions

November 4, 2011 6:36:26 PM PDT
On Thursday, ABC11 reported the Wake County's district attorney has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into absentee ballots hand delivered to the Board of Elections.

Wake County Deputy Elections Director Gary Sims told ABC11 officials became concerned when six ballots were delivered to the elections office by Morrisville Town Council Member Steve Deihl late last week.

According to North Carolina election law, most absentee ballots have to be mailed in.

"If somebody is walking in, turning in absentee ballots, it has to be done by the voter or a near relative - else it has to be mailed in to our office," explained Sims.

But Sims said Deihl is not related to any of the people casting the absentee ballots he delivered.

"It's not something we normally see," said Sims.

By phone Thursday, Diehl told ABC11 he was just helping out a friend.

"The person said 'Hey, you going down there to the board of elections? Could you save me the postage and drop them off,'" he explained.

That friend is also a Morrisville council member who's running for re-election: Linda Lyons.

And Sims says Lyons may have also violated election law by picking up absentee ballots directly from voters. Unless they're family members, you can't do that.

The fact that the Board of Elections turned the matter over to the District Attorney caught Diehl by surprise.

"I know nothing about the rules and regulations regarding absentee ballots. I had no reason to check into them," he told ABC11.

If proven true, some of the allegations could be felonies. No charges have been filed and the investigation continues.

But on Friday, Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe said the wording of the instructions on the absentee ballot forms is confusing, and the fault lies with the Wake Board of Elections.

She pointed to a section on the form that says absentee ballots can be turned in by "a voter", which she said could mean any voter.

"I stand behind those two for always following the letter of the law, as they understand it," said Holcombe.

But election officials at both the county and state say the law is clear and on the back of that same insert, it does say "the voter."

That's the law, and they say misreading it is no defense.

According to the state, the information has been worded the same way for nearly two decades, maybe longer, and they say this is the first time, in Wake or any county, they can remember a candidate not knowing the rules or misreading them.

Still, Holcombe maintains the problem isn't with the candidates.

"Neither one of them are going to violate North Carolina law unless you give them bad information on North Carolina law," she offered.

The whole flap is over just six ballots, but just a few elections back in Morrisville, a candidate won by just three votes.

None of the disputed ballots will count. The voters in question will have to vote again before Tuesday if they want their choices to count.

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