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Gap in judicial contest narrows (NC)
Vote-count correction may lead to a recount
Winston-Salem Journal. November 8, 2008. By Wesley Young

The correction of a vote-counting error has narrowed the gap between incumbent Judge Chester Davis of Forsyth District Court and challenger Amy Allred, making a recount possible in a contest that Davis now leads by 896 votes.

The corrected returns still don't include about 500 provisional ballots that remain to be tallied. Rob Coffman, Forsyth County's director of elections, said that it is "highly unlikely" that a recount would change the apparent outcome.

Allred said she plans to ask for a recount if the counting of provisional ballots keeps her total close enough to ask for it.

"I am hoping for the best," she said.

Davis could not be reached for comment.

Davis led Allred by 1,882 votes on election night. But county elections officials discovered a tabulation error in the results from two precincts that, when corrected, shrank the margin between the two candidates.

By state law, a candidate who appears to have lost an election can ask for a recount if the difference between the two candidates' vote totals is 1 percent or less.

The corrected totals put Allred within that margin.

Coffman said that Allred had 54,113 votes, or 49.6 percent of the total, and Davis had 55,009 votes, or 50.4 percent a difference of 0.8 percent between them.

The tabulation error involved returns from Precinct 601 at Piedmont Baptist College on Broad Street and Precinct 604 at the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools administrative offices on Miller Street near Silas Creek Parkway.

Coffman said that the two precincts did correctly record the votes cast for each candidate, but when the results were fed into a computer that tallies all the returns, a mistake caused the software to omit results for the 74th N.C. House District in those two precincts.

That, in turn, caused the vote totals in some other races to be incorrect.

The corrected totals for the two precincts will result in slight changes in the totals of a number of other political contests but not enough to cause any other potential recounts, Coffman said.

Coffman said he knew in the early-morning hours Wednesday that there was an error because the number of voting applications didn't match the number of votes at the two precincts. It took a couple days to track down the source of the mistake, and the corrected totals for the judicial race were calculated yesterday.

Unofficial returns on the night of the election had Davis with 55,576 votes, or 50.9 percent of the total; Allred trailed with 53,694 votes, or 49.1 percent. If those numbers had held up, a recount would have been out of the question, as the difference was 1.8 percent.

Coffman said that the corrected results for the judicial race also include some curbside voting totals that were not included on election night.

But the latest totals don't include any votes that either candidate may get during the counting of provisional ballots.

Provisional ballots are those cast by voters whose registration the legal ability to vote is in doubt on Election Day. The ballots are each put in a sealed envelope and counted if the local elections board determines that the voter was entitled to vote.

The county sealed about 1,300 provisional ballots during the general election.

Coffman said that the county elections board will count the 500 or so ballots that are valid Friday when the county conducts its official canvass of the 2008 general election.

Allred would have until 5 p.m. Nov. 17 to ask for a recount if her totals are still within 1 percent of those for Davis.

Wesley Young can be reached at 727-7369 or at wyoung@wsjournal.com.


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