GUILFORD COUNTY — The race for a seat on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is in limbo after District 4 Republican Commissioner Alan Branson filed a protest that will prevent apparently victorious Democratic challenger Mary Beth Murphy from taking the oath of office on Monday.
When the recount of general election votes was completed Tuesday, Murphy ended up with a 72-vote winning margin. Murphy, making her first bid for elected office, got 21,727 votes, or 50.08%, to Branson’s 21,655 votes, or 49.92%.
The completion of the recount should have awarded the seat to Murphy, whose lead increased through the election canvass and recount from 18 votes following the Nov. 3 election. As the winner, Murphy would have taken the oath of office Monday during a meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in Greensboro.
But Branson’s protest, which was filed Wednesday, means he will continue to serve in the seat covering eastern Guilford County that he’s held for the past eight years until the matter is resolved.
The Guilford County Board of Elections issued a statement Friday saying that the District 4 race wouldn’t be certified before the commissioners meeting Monday morning. The other commissioners will be sworn in at the meeting. Democrats will have the majority for the first time in 10 years.
A hearing on Branson’s protest before the county elections board will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Guilford County Courthouse in downtown Greensboro.
In his seven-page protest petition, Branson raises questions about the propriety of approximately 100 ballots that were counted in the District 4 race. He raises questions about absentee mail-in ballots not having the proper signature of a voter or identification of a witness, ballot envelopes that lacked proper postmarks, and provisional ballots that shouldn’t have been counted.
Murphy couldn’t be reached Friday by The High Point Enterprise.
The last time the Guilford County Board of Elections was involved in a similar protest was 16 years ago in the race between Republican Commissioner Trudy Wade of Greensboro and Democratic challenger John Parks of High Point.
Parks won the race by an 80-vote margin out of 180,000 votes cast for an at-large, countywide seat.
But Wade contested her loss to the N.C. State Board of Elections and then through the court system. She ended up holding the seat on a temporary basis for about a year and a half before the courts finally completed hearing her protest and allowed Parks to be certified the winner.
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