By Catharin Shepard • Editor • A recount Tuesday night of all the ballots cast in the recent Raeford City Council election confirmed the unofficial results announced last week.
Ricky Sandy, Johnny Boyles and Jackie McLean remained as the top three candidates that voters chose to take seats on the city council in December, with a margin of just one vote separating McLean and fourth-place finisher Shirley Hart.
Hart asked for the recount, Hoke Elections Director Chassidy Chavis said. Hart was the fourth-place finisher in a race for three seats on the board.
The contest ended with a tiny margin between the candidates with the second, third and fourth-highest number of votes. Hart trailed third-place finisher Jackie McLean by a single vote, and second-place finisher Johnny Boyles by five votes.
The results were well within the margin that allows candidates to ask for a recount.
Chavis explained that during the recount process, held Tuesday night during the Board of Elections meeting, elections staff ran every ballot that was cast in the municipal election back through a voting machine to tally the votes again. There was also a hand count last week after the election.
When the recount results were read Tuesday night, the initial, unofficial results released November 7 did not change, and appeared to confirm that Boyles and McLean will join top vote-getter Sandy to be sworn in as Raeford City Council members next month.
Sandy received the most votes in the election at 304, or 18.06 percent, including 157 votes on Election Day, 145 votes through one-stop early voting and two absentee by mail.
Boyles received the second-most with 235 votes or 13.96 percent, including 117 votes on Election Day, 116 votes through one-stop early voting and two absentee by mail.
McLean received the third-most with 231 votes or 13.73 percent, including 131 votes on Election Day, 96 votes through one-stop early voting and four absentee by mail.
Hart received the fourth-most with 230 votes or 13.67 percent, including 127 votes on Election Day, 100 votes through one-stop early voting and three absentee by mail.
The rest of the nine-candidate field finished farther below the four top vote-getters, with David E. Conoly receiving 176 votes/10.46 percent, Charles Tapp 158 votes/9.39 percent, Cathy Brown 147 votes/8.73 percent, Shelley Wilburn 133 votes/7.90 percent and Josh Bain 65 votes/3.86 percent. There were also four write-in, miscellaneous votes.
There were no provisional ballots in the election, which was the first to implement a requirement that voters show identification.
Only registered voters who live in the city of Raeford were allowed to vote in the municipal election, which was nonpartisan and the only contest on the ballot this year.
Voter turnout in the Raeford municipal election clocked in at 20.87 percent, according to numbers from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. A total of 630 out of 3,019 eligible registered voters in Raeford cast a ballot in the race.
The turnout was lower than the November 2022 election, which had multiple county and state-wide contests on the ballot and saw 39.30 percent of registered Hoke voters participate. However, the 2023 municipal election saw more than triple the voter turnout of the last city-only contest in 2021. That year’s uncontested races for city council and mayor had only 6.35 percent of voters in Raeford participate at the polls.
This year, a large number of voters did not vote for three candidates as allowed by the ballot. There were 207 “under votes,” according to the election results.
The results from the recount remain unofficial until election canvass, set for 11 a.m. this Friday in the commissioners’ room at the Pratt building.
“The board will review the results, they’ll be read aloud, and they’ll make a motion to certify the election results,” Chavis said.
The certified results will be sent to the State Board of Elections in Raleigh.
The three new Raeford City Council members will be sworn in at the board’s first meeting in December. Longtime board incumbents Bobby Conoly, John Jordan and Mary Neil King all chose not to seek further terms in office. They will go off the board when the new members are sworn in.
Incumbent members Charles Allen and Wayne Willis remain serving their current terms. Raeford City Council member terms are four years.