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North Carolina county boards dismiss election protests from legislator. Recounts are next

2024 Primary Election Day in North Carolina
Matt Ramey
In this file photo, Chief Judge Monica Gullatt looks over voting paperwork at her polling location, The Church at Clayton Crossings, on March 5, 2024, Primary Election Day in North Carolina.

Elections boards in three northeastern North Carolina counties that make up a House district have dismissed formal protests filed by a 10-term state legislator who is narrowly trailing in his Democratic primary from earlier this month.

By Tuesday afternoon, the boards in Warren, Northampton and Halifax counties had disposed of the challenges filed late last week by Rep. Michael Wray, officials said.

Results from the counties that compose the reconfigured 27th House District show Rodney Pierce, a schoolteacher from Halifax County, leading Wray by 35 votes out of nearly 12,000 ballots cast for the March 5 primary.

Wray also on Monday asked for a recount of his race in each county, with that work starting this week, Pierce attorney Swain Wood said.

Wray's protests challenged what happened with more than a dozen voters and alleged that a Democratic poll observer at a Halifax County precinct instructed voters to choose Pierce, violating the law.

In Halifax County, the board unanimously agreed that Wray in part "failed to contest the manner in which votes were counted or results tabulated sufficient to cast doubt on the results of the election" and failed to offer substantial evidence of a law violation, irregularity or misconduct that could determine the outcome. The protest decisions could be appealed to the State Board of Elections.

In a written statement, Wray said he was disappointed with the dismissal but is looking forward to the recount results. Pierce said he's pleased with how the board handled Wray's protests and is confident the recount "will confirm the results of the initial count" that favored him.

Wray, who joined the House in 2005, has been criticized by outside groups and other Democrats for aligning himself at times with leaders in the Republican-controlled House, where he's been made one of the senior chairmen of the powerful finance committee.

Three other General Assembly incumbents lost their primary elections: Democratic Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham County and Republican Reps. George Cleveland of Onslow County and Kevin Crutchfield of Cabarrus County.

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