County Contacting Unqualified Signers
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Moore County elections personnel are notifying hundreds of unqualified signers of candidate petitions that they have the opportunity to update or correct registration records.
"It's a wonderful tool, and we're giving everyone an opportunity to update their addresses," said Clendenin, county director of elections. "If they're not registered, we're giving them an opportunity to register to vote."
The thousands of people who signed petitions supporting two unaffiliated candidates for a seat in the state legislature need not worry. Clendenin said that even with several hundred signatures disqualified, both Manila "Bud" Shaver and Gerald Galloway have plenty of signatures to qualify for placement on the November general election ballot.
Shaver submitted petitions with 2,454 signatures, and 2,309 have been certified. Galloway has 3,071 valid signatures. Each candidate needed 2,040 valid signatures to secure a slot on the November ballot as unaffiliated candidates. State law requires signatures of at least 4 percent of the total registration.
Both candidates submitted more than the minimum number of signatures before the June 30 deadline.
Clendenin said both candidates have been officially notified that they are certified for the general election. They are challenging Joe Boylan, winner of the Republican primary election in May.
"No apple carts were upset in the certification process," Clendenin said.
But much work remains in the office of the Moore County Board of Elections. Clendenin and her staff still have about 560 pieces of mail to process as soon as possible. These are notices that must be mailed to each person who signed a petition but was not qualified to do so.
Among the remaining batch of disqualified names are 25 who signed more than one petition for the same candidate, one illegible signature, 16 residents of another county, 230 who were not registered to vote, 36 whose signatures could not be verified, 25 whose names had been removed from county registration books, and 26 not residing within House District 52.
One recurring problem with signatures was information that does not correspond with existing registration records.
State law does not prohibit a petitioner from signing petitions for more than one candidate. Thus, local elections personnel are not required to check that out on the two sets of petitions.
The process of notifying hundreds of unqualified signers comes on top of the huge job of certifying the thousands of qualified signers.
Clendenin said the process of certifying almost 6,000 signatures should be a useful exercise for the Board of Elections, because she predicts that the practice of unaffiliated candidates is a trend of the future.
The trend is already firmly set for the 2006 general election in North Carolina, where unaffiliated candidates have emerged in about one-fourth of the 100 counties.
The election attracting widespread attention is the district attorney race in Durham County, where incumbent DA Mike Nifong has been criticized for his handling of a highly publicized assault/rape case involving members of the Duke University lacrosse team.
State law allows an unaffiliated candidate to qualify by securing the 4 percent minimum number of signatures from registered voters by the end of June. Because they are subject to the general election, such candidates are not required to be registered as unaffiliated voters. Petition signers are likewise not required to be registered as unaffiliated voters, and it does not matter whether their registration corresponds with that of the person whose petition they sign. However, both candidates and petition signers must be registered to vote in the district where they reside.
Shaver, a retired Army major general, remains a registered Republican. Galloway, retired as Southern Pines police chief, is registered as unaffiliated but is a former Democrat.
Shaver's entry into the race apparently was precipitated by what he regards as improper interference by the state Republican Party in the local legislative race. Boylan, a Pinehurst businessman, defeated incumbent Rep. Richard Morgan in a heated GOP primary in May. State Republican Party leaders made it clear that they would work for Morgan's defeat and poured financial and other support into the Boylan campaign.
Morgan, who has represented Moore County in the state House since 1991, served as co-speaker of the House in the 2003-2004 sessions. He incurred the wrath of state party leaders for working out a power-sharing deal with Democrats that made him co-speaker in 2003. Morgan is speaker pro tem in the current session.
Shaver, a fiscal conservative, said he is not running as a substitute for Morgan and, if elected, will serve as a Republican representative on his own terms.
Galloway has indicated that his interest lies in concern for moderate leadership not dominated by political parties. He has expressed no interest in switching his registration back to the Democratic Party, although most of his backers are described as Democrats.
Allegiance to political parties appears to be waning in many areas of the country, and this is particularly true in Moore County, where the unaffiliated registration slate has grown 400 percent since 1988. The county now has 11,853 unaffiliated registrants contrasted with 2,278 in 1988. Total registration was 54,303 as of April 20.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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