The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

April 18, 2013

Board of Elections soon dominated by Republican Party


TARBORO — Edgecombe County Board of Elections will soon be dominated by the Republican Party for the first time in 20 years.

The new composition is the result of Republican Gov. Pat McCory defeating Democratic nominee, Walter Dalton for the seat in the November General Election. McCroy replaced Democratic Gov. Bev Predue who chose not to run.

According to North Carolina statutes, the party that is seated as governor, is required to have the majority of the county board of election's three seats. For the upcoming board, Edgecombe County Democratic Party will nominate one board member while Edgecombe County Republican Party will nominated two. Those names will be sent to the State Board of Elections. The state board will officially appoint the new board members.

Current Edgecombe County Board of Elections members are Charles Rountree (D), Shelly Willingham (D) and Betty Lewis (R).

Lewis is one of the 6,032 registered Republicans in the county compared to 29,095 Democrats. She blames the large disparity of Democrats to the Republicans on voters unfamiliarity with her party.

"Our party has a lot of work to do to absolutely educate our people so that they know more about us and that they know that we really have the very same desire for our county and our country," Lewis said. "We do our best for not just one race, but for all citizens and all races."

Citing her son-in-law, Edgecombe County Commissioner Donald Boswell's intention on filling to be re elected, the lone Republican said she doesn't know whether or not she will participate in another term.

"If he chose to run again for commissioner, I will not seek to be appointed," Lewis said. "He has not told me yet, but it seems to me he wants to do that. And if he does, I think it will be fair for me to step down from the board. I think it will be fair to the party and fair to the citizens and fair to the board."

Willingham has been on the board for two years. He accepts the Republican majority and said he would agree to an appointment to work with them.

"Once a person is elected or appointed to the board of elections and they understand what there duties are, then most people will do that," he said. "Of course, the main objective of the board of elections is to make sure that you have fair elections. Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, I think that will happen. I don't see where there is any kind of detriment as for carrying out the election process. I think in Edgecombe County we've been fortunate. No matter who the two Republicans are, and the Democrat is, we will have fair and good elections and we will do what needs to be done. Democracy works."

The issue of the party shift was brought to the boards attention by political activist the Rev. Rooselvet Higgs during the boards monthly meeting on Tuesday. Higgs complimented the board on their work. He said he hopes the new board will follow their examples.

"We've been very fortunate to have y'all serve as board of elections members," he said. "The only thing that I hope is that we continue to maintain some racial diversity on the board. I think the Democratic Party by large has done everything humanly possible throughout the years to make sure that was in place.  

"In my coming to meetings, if you didn't know what party board members were representing, you would not know. I hope that who ever remains on the board or those who are appointed on the board, will come in with the same willingness to serve the people of Edgecombe County — without allowing party associations to become any hinderance in serving on this board. Y'all have done excellent, so they already have a map that they can go by."

Gov. Jim Martin was the second Republican elected to the office after Reconstruction, and the fifth overall. served from 1985 to 1993. He is also the only Republican to serve two full terms as governor.