Election appeal could delay New Hanover Commissioners swearing in

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An appeal of a protest from this month’s election could delay the swearing in of two new members of the New Hanover County Commission.

Chris Anderson notified members of the North Carolina Board of Elections Friday afternoon his plans to appeal the dismissing of his protest of the Nov. 4 election and Democratic sample ballots he said were left at a Wilmington polling place on Election Day, according to New Hanover County Board of Elections Chair John Ferrante. Anderson has until November 25 to hand deliver or get that appeal in the mail, said State Board of Elections Spokesperson Joshua Lawson.

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The New Hanover County Board of Elections has called an emergency meeting for tomorrow morning. Ferrante says it’s so the board can approve the minutes from last week’s meeting where it denied Anderson’s protest so those minutes can be sent to the NC Board of Elections. Lawson said the board has a meeting scheduled as well Tuesday, but it does not plan to discuss the appeal.

The timing of the appeal hearing is important, because it could delay the turnover on the County Commission. The county learned this morning that if the appeal is filed, officials will not meet to discuss the appeal until at least the first week in December, according to Lawson. That means the new commissioners, Republican Skip Watkins and Democrat Rob Zapple, will not be sworn in. If the appeal is not filed by November 25, Watkins and Zapple will be sworn in. Republican Derrick Hickey finished fewer than 200 votes behind Zapple.

If Watkins and whoever is certified the second place finisher cannot be sworn in, then the current members will continue to hold office until a resolution is reached. That means the terms of Republicans Tom Wolfe and Brian Berger would be extended. Meanwhile, by law commissioners must choose a new chair and vice chair from the make-up of the commission at the time of Monday’s meeting. That means they must choose from Wolfe, Berger, fellow Republicans Woody White and Beth Dawson, who are currently chair and vice chair respectively, or Democrat Jonathan Barfield.