Sample tally forces full Commission vote recount;
Merrill says she’ll still press for scrutiny of college votes
On Monday (Dec. 3) the latest chapter in the ongoing mystery of who will occupy the District 2 seat on Buncombe County Council played out, as a hand recount of ballots again showed Ellen Frost only 13 votes ahead of Christina Kelley G. Merrill.
That was the number by which Frost led Merrill after an initial canvass following the Nov. 6 election. Merrill, who according to original totals won the seat by 85 votes, fell from second to third among four candidates following that canvass. Then a machine recount awarded four more votes to Frost, making a 17-balot difference. In accordance with state election law, two voting districts – which turned out to be Avery’s Creek and Black Mountain – were selected at random for the hand recount, resulting in Frost’s loss of four votes to Merrill.
The failure to square the Frost-Merrill tally, together with minor discrepancies in the vote count for the other two candidates, leader Mike Fryar and last-place Carol Peterson, means that in all likelihood a full hand count of all 47,000 ballots cast in Buncombe County will now take place.
Meanwhile Merrill has said she will go forward with a separate protest she has filed which centers on the validity of 44 votes cast by students at Warren Wilson College. Merrill’s protest contends that the BOE improperly assigned those votes to District 2, where they physically reside according to college officials, rather than District 1, where the college’s mail is received. The District 1 – District 2 boundary bisects the college campus. Merrill has also contended that some students may still not meet other eligibility requirements even if they live in dormitories in District 2. The State BOE is scheduled to hear Merrill’s case on Dec. 13.
Follow Roger McCredie’s continuing coverage of the commissioner vote recount, its results, and its possible statewide implications in coming issues of the Tribune.