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Full hand-to-eye recount in New Hanover school board race slated for Wednesday

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Benjamin Schachtman
New Hanover County Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens.

According to the New Hanover County Board of Election, the state ordered the full countywide recount after a sample recount held last week identified inconsistencies.

The recount seeks to bring closure to the tight race for the last of four spots in the primary election for the New Hanover County Board of Education.

Incumbent Nelson Beaulieu was initially ahead of challenger Jennah Bosch by three votes on the May 17 primary election night. The following week, the county canvass on May 27, which finalized vote totals, flipped those results, leaving Bosch ahead by three votes – but well within the margin for a recount request.

Beaulieu initially request a machine recount, which was held on June 8 and narrowed Bosch’s lead to two votes; he subsequently followed up with a request for a ‘hand-to-eye’ recount, which involves physically inspecting and documenting each individual ballot. Under state law, the county’s Board of Elections first performed a sample recount representing 3% of precincts, rounding up the nearest whole number of precincts – in this case amounting to two precincts: Masonboro and early voting at Cape Fear Community College (CFCC), which for recounts is considered its own precinct.

The sample recount was held last Friday, June 10. While the Masonboro hand count matched the earlier machine recount, the CFCC results differed by one vote.

Benjamin Schachtman
The sample hand-to-eye recount on Friday, June 10, identified an inconsistency - leading to a county-wide recount.

While this one precinct would not give Beaulieu the win, the North Carolina State Board of Elections extrapolated the statistical ‘rate of change’ across all ballots and determined that the inaccuracy at CFCC means there is a statistically significant chance that other errors across the county could change the result. Based on that analysis, the state ordered a full hand-to-eye recount across the county.

That recount will be held Wednesday, June 15, in the David E. Paynter Room located to the left of the main entrance to the Northeast Library on Military Cutoff Road. The recount will begin at 9 a.m. and will be open to the public.

There will not be a teleconference or virtual attendance option, but increased capacity for in-person observation will be made available. Given the number of ballots cast countywide, the New Hanover County Board of Elections may not finish the physical recount in one day; the county board “reserves the right to adjourn and reconvene the meeting as appropriate until the full hand-to-eye recount has concluded.”