Carthage Mayor Lee McGraw is being removed from the ballot because his current address is not within the town’s limits, the Moore Board of Elections decided Monday night.
Elizabeth Mangrum, chairwoman of the board, said the decision was made after McGraw, who had sought a third term, agreed to sign a formal request to cancel notice of his candidacy.
“Last week, it came to the county board’s attention that one of the candidates for mayor of Carthage, Lee McGraw, was not listed as a town voter in the town’s voter registration records,” Mangrum said. “The staff checked municipal boundary lines, and it appeared he did not reside in the town limits.”
A former resident of Bingham Street, McGraw decided to put his home on the market after remarrying last year. McGraw said he did not realize his wife’s property on South McNeill Street was outside the town limits when the couple moved in together.
“It never occurred to me that I wasn’t in Carthage,” McGraw said in a phone interview with The Pilot. “Everything around us is Carthage, and we’re in the (extraterritorial jurisdiction). I absolutely figured we were in the town.”
Glenda Clendenin, director of the elections board, said ballots for the Nov. 5 municipal election in Carthage will be reprinted before one-stop voting begins on Oct. 16. The town, Clendenin said, will pay for the second printing.
After the new ballots are in place, Mangrum said election workers will “test the voting system again in preparation for early voting.”
Addressing the Board of Elections on Monday, McGraw explained why he agreed to cancel notice of his candidacy instead of appealing the issue.
“The law is the law and I totally abide by it,” McGraw said. “And if I wouldn’t have signed, then some ding-a-ling would have come up at the end of the election, more than likely, and called for another election. That would have cost our town, and I love my town. I grew up here.”
Had McGraw’s name appeared on the ballot, any of his three opponents could have formally protested the outcome of the election. If McGraw was the top vote-getter, he would be disqualified from taking office.
Clendenin said the board began looking into McGraw’s residency following an inquiry by opponent Kevin Lewis, who Clendenin said had bought a list of registered voters in Carthage.
“I noticed the mayor’s name wasn’t on it, so I thought they had given me a partial list,” Lewis said Tuesday in a phone interview. “I asked why his name wasn’t there, and that was the extent of my involvement.”
Town commissioners George Wilson Jr. and Jimmy Chalflinch are also running for mayor. Al Barber, Dan Bonillo and R. Dustin Smith are vying for two open seats on the town board.
Clendenin said town commissioners will decide if McGraw can finish out the remainder of his term, which is set to end in December.
Speaking on behalf of the elections board, Mangrum thanked McGraw for his cooperation. McGraw praised election officials for their “hard work.”
“I know (the job) is tough, and it gets real tough this time of year for you,” he said. “I’ve seen you all again and again, working so hard.”
McGraw appeared to take the situation in stride. In an interview, he joked about demanding a refund for his $5 candidate filing fee.
“I’ll use the money to buy deer corn,” he said. “Now that I’m in the county, I can go hunting.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the wrong street name for McGraw’s previous home in Carthage. The home is located on Bingham, not North McNeill Street.