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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County commissioners race headed for recount

Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich reviews documents at a joint school boards meeting between Orange County Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Board of County Commissioners. The meeting took place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough, N.C.

Incumbent Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich requested a recount of the district 1 election on Friday after a full canvas showed her just nine votes short of another term on the board.

Voters chose candidates to fill two seats on the board from district 1 during the March 3 election. While Rich was ahead of her fellow incumbent Commissioner Mark Dorosin on election night, the addition of provisional and absentee ballots showed challenger Jean Hamilton with 37.73 percent of the vote, Dorosin with 31.14 percent and Rich with 31.12 percent. 

Rich would not be the only incumbent to lose her seat on the board — Amy Fowler, a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District Board of Education, unseated incumbent commissioner Mark Marcoplos in the at-large race. 

Rich, who is also the current chair of the Board, faced opposition from local PAC's whose goal was to put more money into the school buildings in Orange County. Chapel Hill Leadership PAC and Save Orange Schools PAC both spent money to support Fowler and Hamilton, and to unseat the incumbents.

In elections with less than a one percent margin separating candidates, the non-prevailing candidate can request that the county board of elections conduct a recount. 

"I fully trust our board of elections and the way that we run our board," Rich said. "Our director is amazing and they are very reliable and trustworthy so I don't think anything is going to change. But because it's so close — under 10 votes — I think its something that should happen anyway."

The recount is scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 19 at 9 a.m. But, due to the state of emergency in Orange County in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Orange County Board of Elections director Rachel Raper said the usual in-person viewing may not be able occur.

"What I don't know is how we're going to treat the recount given the virus issues that are going on," Raper said.

Raper said the priority is to correctly settle the results of the election. 

"We're operating under a very unusual set of circumstances given the state of emergency that's been declared," Raper said. "So we're just trying to figure out how to still best conduct elections services while also protecting the health of our staff and everyone else."


@DTHCityState |

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