You may have noticed something new on the ballot on Election Day, the Libertarian party. However, no Libertarians won races in our area, but the party candidates may have changed the outcome. The State Senate District 8 seat had a seemingly unknown Libertarian on the ballot. Rachel Joiner Merrell earned five thousand plus votes without so much as a campaign sign. This may be the first time you've heard about Rachel Joiner Merrill, yet she ran for a State Senate seat. She challenged a 40 year veteran in the North Carolina legislature. We called the state Libertarian Party to find out how she ended up on the ballot. “I met Rachel at a convention in downtown Raleigh. We chatted, she discussed her interest in the Libertarian party, and discussed about wanting to run. The executive committee approved her nomination,” said John Evans, the NHC Libertarian party chair. Merrill did not respond to questionnaires provided by Star News and Brunswick Beacon. The Pender Post and Whiteville news reporter also called her, but got no response. We tried as well, but nothing. So far, nobody has learned of any public appearances or events Merrill attended. Still on November 4th, she received 5,413 votes. “The Libertarian votes probably would have gone to me had she not filed,” said Bettie Fennell who was the Republican running in the 8th District. Here's a look at the numbers: Incumbent and long time senator Democrat R.C. Soles beat Republican challenger Bettie Fennell by about 2,800 votes. Merrill got more than 5,000. “Whenever a Republican or a Democrat sees a Libertarian getting votes, they figure those are their votes that have been stolen. I have news for those folks. The votes belong to the people,” said Evans. He also said Merrill, like all candidates, was asked to respond to reporters phone calls and questionnaires. “She probably could have campaigned harder. If she had, that would have been great, but just to be an additional option for the voters of that district was a good thing.” Merrill was not the only invisible candidate to get a significant number of votes. David Martin pulled out of the race for New Hanover County School Board, but because he did it after the ballots were already printed, his name was still an option. We suspect straight-party voting gave him many of his 38,000 or so votes. He was one of three Democrats on the ballot, in a race where voters could make 3 choices.
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