Columbus County elections board likely violated state law. Here’s what to know

By Ben Rappaport 

The Columbus County Board of Elections likely violated state law by revising its plan for statewide runoff elections without properly notifying the public. 

Here’s what to know about the board’s actions, along with some context about the board’s history and the upcoming runoffs. 

Why are there runoff elections?

In North Carolina, a second-place candidate can call for a runoff election if the top vote getter didn’t win at least 30% of the vote. 

Two Republican primary races – for lieutenant governor and state auditor – will have runoffs on May 14. 

What did the Columbus County board do wrong?

The Columbus County Board of Elections met in person on March 15, when the five-member board approved a plan for one-stop early voting for the runoffs. 

But the board then unanimously agreed via email exchanges on March 15 and March 16 to reduce the number of early voting locations from five to one. Attorney Mike Tadych, an expert on media law, told The News Reporter that the board’s failure to notify the public of its actions violated a state law that dictates rules for public meetings. 

Under state statute, public board meetings held outside of regularly planned times must be announced 48 hours ahead of time or as soon as possible. 

What is the board’s response?

The reduction in early voting locations is a cost-saving measure, Elections Director Ashley Collins told The News Reporter. 

Collins, who is in her second year as director, said she did not believe the board had to provide public notice of the meeting. Parker Holland, the North Carolina State Board of Elections administration manager, reportedly approved the revision of the early voting plan by email.

What happens now?

Probably nothing. Tadych told The News Reporter It is unlikely the decision by the board will be changed by the runoff elections, unless it is challenged in superior court.

Who can vote in the primary runoffs?

Republicans and unaffiliated voters who either didn’t vote in the primary or who voted the ballot of the party for which the second primary is being held. 

Unaffiliated voters who voted a nonpartisan, Democrat, or Libertarian ballot in the first primary are not eligible to vote in a second primary for Republican candidates.

There are no statewide runoffs for Democrats. 

Who are the candidates?

The Republican runoff for lieutenant governor is between Hal Weatherman and Jim O’Neil, the top vote-getters in a crowded 11-candidate field in the March primary. 

Weatherman, a political aide and former chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, earned 20% of the vote. O’Neil, the district attorney in Forsyth County, earned 16%. The winner of the runoff will go on to face Democratic nominee Rachel Hunt, an attorney and state representative from Mecklenburg County. 

The lieutenant governor is responsible for presiding over the state Senate and State Board of Education.

The state auditor runoff features Jack Clark and Dave Boliek. Clark, a certified public accountant, received 23% of the vote in the March primary. Boliek, an attorney and former chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, earned 22% in the six-candidate field. The winner will face Democrat and incumbent state auditor Jessica Holmes.

The state auditor is responsible for examining the state and local governments for any misuse of taxpayer money.

How do I vote?

Early voting for the runoffs begins April 25 and ends at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. Early voting sites and schedules are available at the Early Voting Site Search

In Columbus County, the only early voting location is at the board of elections office in Whiteville. 

For more information about the Republican primary runoff elections, and to check your voting precinct visit