Election board hears protest in 2018 Columbus County sheriff’s race
COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Testimony ended Wednesday and will pick up in the morning for the case for who is the rightful sheriff of Columbus County.
All day witnesses related to the protest of the November election spoke before the Columbus County Board of Elections.
Democratic Vice Chair Gloria Smith has protested how voters were allowed to vote during the 2018 election.
Smith contests that one-stop voting locations singled out minority voters in Fair Bluff, Chadbourn and Tabor City to name a few.
The most passionate testimony of the day noticeably was from Board of Elections Director Carla Strickland. Strickland was asked about why the one-stop voting was set the way it was. She cited a new state general statute that extended early voting from three to five days a week with longer hours. Strickland said this was challenging for a limited budget and limited elections board staff. She said that reason, on top of statistical data, was why precincts were placed where the were. Strickland did most of the work for the defendant disputing Smith’s attorneys.
“There was no racial bias in this process,” said Strickland.
Smith levied around a dozen instants where voters were impacted on election day ranging from voters being told they were not allowed to vote, needed an ID, or early vote by mail not being counted. Another issue was the 9 votes thrown out by the county board of elections that were cast at the Liberty Home Care.
“The second violation that came into play was that a nursing home employee was handling absentee by mail ballots, that is a huge no,” said Strickland.
Smith also contests that Republican Jody Greene does not live in the county.
Testimony from the plaintiff got so heated that Greene himself walked out of the courtroom. This came when Smith’s attorneys questions Calvin Norton. Norton was at first an outspoken supporter of Greene during the campaign for Sheriff. After Smith uncovered the controversy of Greene’s living standards, Norton launched his own private investigation.
Norton has filed suits on the federal level related to Greene and the county’s role in the election outcome. Norton provided several documents he obtained through subpoena from the South Carolina DMV and deeds offices. He presented public documents showing the camper Greene is said to have located at his Cerro Gordo address was registered in South Carolina.
Continuous times, Greene’s attorneys disputed Norton’s evidence and at one point asked the board of elections throw out his testimony and request he stop providing it.
The day finished with former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher speaking on how he does not believe Greene lives in the county.
Greene’s attorney Boyd Worley provided evidence to combat Hatcher’s claims. Hatchers said he went to Greene’s listed address the weekend after the initial election protests were denied and Smith notified him of the lack of visible dwelling at the address. Hatcher claims he never saw a mailbox at the address. Worley provided Hatcher with a March 2015 incident report that Greene made regarding his mailbox. Allegedly, Greene’s mailbox was stolen 4 years ago according to Worley’s evidence.
Greene was sworn in back in December, but the race was never certified by the state. When speaking to Smith’s attorney Ralph Frasier, he admits what takes place in the county hearing and what outcome that may lead to will be appealed to the State Board of Elections.
“I do think that we got out the issues that we needed to get out regarding Mr. Greene and where we believe he resides or doesn’t reside and I look forward to tomorrow and see what happen,” said Frasier.
The hearing is expected to turn over to Greene and his supporters Thursday morning.