Not much happens businesswise over the Thanksgiving holidays – and even less happens on the Thanksgiving holidays during a pandemic.
That rule apparently applies to elections disputes as well, and, heading into the four-day weekend, it was not clear when, or if, the NC State Board of Elections would hear the challenge to the results of the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election brought by District 4 Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson.
When all the votes in that race were counted, Branson finished 70 votes behind his Democratic challenger for the seat – teacher and political newcomer Mary Beth Murphy.
Branson, however, hired well known Greensboro Attorney Chuck Winfree and filed a challenge to those results with the NC State Board of Elections.
Murphy is scheduled to be sworn into that District 4 seat on Monday, Dec. 7.
On Wednesday, Nov. 25, Patrick Gannon, the public information director for the state’s elections board, stated that there was no word yet on whether the board will hear the protest.
“It was untimely filed so the State Board will have to decide whether to take it up,” Gannon wrote in an email.
Winfree knows a thing or two about the questions in play because he is both a former Guilford County Commissioner and former member of the NC State Board of Elections. Winfree said the day before Thanksgiving that he’s hopeful the state elections board will hear Branson’s case. He said that while the protest was filed past the usual deadline for such protests, there were special circumstances at play this time around, such as a recount that could change things.
That recount is still underway in the District 4 race.
“It is up to the state board’s discretion whether to hear the case or not,” Winfree said.
He also acknowledged that the protest could end up in court once it is heard or not heard by the state’s elections board.
Winfree said that the last time he looked at the state board’s schedule he didn’t see the case on the board’s agenda, but he added that the board usually lumps elections protests together and hears those cases at one time. There are similar disputes in the state that the board may wish to hear when Branson’s case is heard.
Winfree said that these types of cases can take a long time to resolve. He citied a now famous 2004 election dispute between former Guilford County Commissioners John Parks and former Guilford County Commission and former State Senator Trudy Wade that went on for a year and a half after the election.