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McCoy loses protest bid to get on ballot in city's Northeast Ward

McCoy loses protest bid to get on ballot in city's Northeast Ward

Paula McCoy has lost a formal protest she filed to get onto the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate running for Northeast Ward seat on the Winston-Salem city council.

Tim Tsujii, the director of elections in Forsyth County, said in his written decision to dismiss McCoy's claims that McCoy essentially failed to demonstrate any problems in the handling of her case.

"One of the reasons for the dismissal is that it was a protest on an election that has yet to occur," Tsujii said, noting that the election protest is generally used to contest the results of an election after the voting has taken place.

McCoy contends that she was improperly removed from the ballot by election officials, but in his dismissal, Tsujii said he consulted with state and local election attorneys to follow the proper procedures.

Tsujii said he sent an email and a letter to McCoy on Sept. 11 notifying her of the dismissal of her protest, but McCoy said she never got anything from the elections office.

McCoy said she will continue forward with a write-in campaign to get a seat on the council representing the Northeast Ward.

As it stands, because McCoy's candidacy was ruled out of order, Democrat Barbara Hanes Burke will be the only candidate listed on the ballot for the Northeast Ward council seat.

McCoy had been told by local elections officials in July that she had met the threshold to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.

Getting onto the ballot requires a would-be unaffiliated city council candidate to get signatures of 1.5% of the registered voters of the ward being sought.

In McCoy's case, she needed 281 valid signatures and was determined in July to have 283.

Then, on Aug. 5, the last day to turn in signatures, Burke appeared at the elections office downtown just minutes before the deadline, and presented officials there with four names to check from McCoy's petition. Three of the four turned out to be non-residents of Northeast Ward, and that dropped McCoy's total to 280 — one short of the total needed.

In her protest, McCoy contends that election officials should have treated Burke's actions as a "challenge to candidacy" requiring a hearing and other formal procedures.

Tsujii, in his dismissal, said the attorney for the state elections board told him that Burke was not required to formally challenge McCoy's candidacy, and that at any rate, once the elections office here determined that McCoy had not gotten enough signatures, it had no choice but to de-certify McCoy's candidacy.

As it turned out, McCoy actually had 16 fewer signatures than she needed to appear on the ballot.

When election officials were checking the names Burke supplied, they realized they had not properly used the software supplied by the state for checking whether someone was a resident of a particular ward.

That discovery led to a complete re-check of not only McCoy's signatures, but of the signatures of two other people who were trying to get on the ballot in East Ward as unaffiliated candidates.

When the checking was done, all three fell short of their totals. In addition to McCoy, Michael Banner and Tony Burton were also trying to run as unaffiliated candidates.

In dismissing McCoy's protest, Tsujii said he informed McCoy that there is no appeals process for a candidate whose petition to appear on the ballot is not certified. Tsujii said he did give McCoy a chance to prove that any of her petition signers were improperly disapproved.

Tsujii said the law left the local elections board no choice but to de-certify McCoy's candidacy.

"One of her arguments is that ... we didn't comply with the law, but we did," Tsujii said. "If the remedy is to get the name on the ballot, the only way for that to happen would be for us to break the law."

In addition to filing a formal protest with the elections board, McCoy also filed suit, asking the courts to essentially force the county to put her name on the ballot.

However, county officials said they have never been served copies of the lawsuit, which McCoy filed in Forsyth Superior Court.

Lonnie Albright, the assistant county attorney who handles legal matters for the elections office, said McCoy’s lawsuit is moot anyway because absentee ballots are already being mailed out.

336-727-7369 

@wyoungWSJ

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