Forsyth election workers slog through school board election recount

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Kathie Fansler and Mark Johnson (back) watched the recount.
Kathie Fansler and Mark Johnson (back) watched the recount today.

Election officials, staff and candidates are preparing for a long night at the Forsyth County Board of Elections, as a recount of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board at-large race and associate supreme court race continues.

The recount began at about 10:30 a.m. with mail-in absentee and early voting ballots. At about 5 p.m., Deputy Elections Director Lamar Joyner wheeled in the first boxes of precinct ballots from Election Day, indicating only about a third of the 109,338 ballots cast countywide have been counted.

Democrat Kathie Fansler, who placed fourth in the at-large school board race, requested the recount. Fansler fell just 318 votes short of winning one of the three at-large seats up for grabs in the election. Fansler has been at the board of elections since 9:30 a.m., along with a revolving cast of party supporters, including county chair Susan Campbell. Republican Mark Johnson, who placed third, has also been monitoring the recount, with Republican county chair Scott Cumbie.

The at-large school board recount is taking place simultaneously with a recount in an associate supreme court race between Cheri Beasley and Mike Robinson. Each local board, including the one in Forsyth, is recounting the associate supreme court race.

Fansler also filed a protest of the 2014 election in Forsyth County.

“The protest I filed is about accounting for the ballots, so after this recount we know we’re finished,” she told the board. “I had hoped we could hear the protest before the recount, so that would be the case, but unfortunately I will walk away from here today with more questions.”

The Forsyth County Board of Elections voted unanimously to defer Fansler’s protest to the State Board of Elections rather than hold a hearing of its own because the protest was filed after the statewide canvass last Friday. Fansler filed a public records request for Chain of Custody reports for each of the county’s 101 voting precincts a week ago and had been waiting to see the documents before she filed the protest. But fulfillment of the request is taking longer than she expected. Campbell characterized the situation as a “Catch-22.”

The local board brought in an M-850 reader to conduct the recount. Elections Director Steve Hines said the M-850┬áis faster than the M-650 reader that the local elections board typically uses. The M-650 is about 10 years old. Instead of stopping when a “bad ballot” is encountered, HInes said, the newer machine sorts it into another bin. The flawed ballots typically result from a voter not filling in the bubble completely. The three members of the board reviewed each flawed ballot, with each member signing off on an interpretation of the selection of candidates.

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