The results of a Dec. 7 hand recount of all the ballots in District 2 showed Republican Mike Fryar in first place and Democrat Ellen Frost's lead over Republican Christina Kelley G. Merrill growing slightly to 18 votes for the second spot. As in previous vote counts, Democrat incumbent Carol Peterson finished fourth.
The District 2 race will determine which party holds a majority on the expanded seven-member board — the top two vote-getters win seats.
The State Board of Elections ordered the local election services department to count all the district's nearly 50,000 ballots by hand after a partial count in two precincts showed discrepancies with previous machine counts. The process took two days as teams — made up of two Democratic and two GOP election workers each — inspected and counted every vote by hand.
The canvass results and two recounts have shown the winning order of the candidates staying the same, although there's been slight discrepancies in the vote totals. However, initial results reported on election night, Nov. 6, had Merrill in second place. But those numbers didn't include hundreds of provisional and absentee ballots that the Buncombe County Board of Elections determined — when it met on canvass day, Nov. 16 — should be legally counted.
Local elections officials said earlier discrepancies in the tallies were due to errors in how the machines read the ballots.
Requested by Merrill and Peterson, the hand recount cost Buncombe County about $7,500 and will likely be the last recount unless the state board decides otherwise, according to Election Services Director Trena Parker.
On Dec. 13, the state board is set to consider a protest filed by Merrill questioning the process local election officials used to determine which district the residents of Warren Wilson College live and voted in. Divided between Districts 1 and 2, Newsweek recently ranked the school the most liberal college in the country, so it's likely that throwing out any ballots from its residents would help Merrill make up her deficit.
The Buncombe County Board of Elections voted 2–1 to deny Merrill a full legal hearing on the matter and discount any Warren Wilson ballots. The decision fell along party lines, with two Democrats opposed and one Republican in support. Frost has charged that the protest is an attempt to disenfranchise student voters.
The state board has indicated that they will not certify the District 2 winners until after the Dec. 13 hearing. Appointed by the governor, the state board consists of three Democrats and two Republicans.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Buncombe County commissioners were sworn in this week and held their first meeting.
Dec. 7 hand recount results:Mike Fryar 20,007
Ellen Frost 19,918
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,900
Carol Weir Peterson 19,880
Nov. 29 machine recount results:Mike Fryar 19,991
Ellen Frost 19,903
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,886
Carol Peterson 19,868
Nov. 17 canvass results:Mike Fryar 19,993 votes
Ellen Frost 19,904 votes
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,891 votes
Carol Peterson 19,870 votes
Nov. 6 initial results:Mike Fryar 19,904 votes
Christina Kelley G. Merrill 19,806 votes
Ellen Frost 19,719 votes
Carol Peterson 19,701 votes