Clayton voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, December 9, to select two council members from five names on the ballot. Ballot mix-ups at two polling locations cast doubt on the outcome of an extremely tight race in November 2007.
After a drawn-out legal battle involving the State Board of Elections and Councilman Alex Atchison, an incumbents in the race, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld a Superior Court decision ordering a new election for both seats with all of the original candidates on the ballot. In addition to Atchison, Councilman Alex Harding and challengers Art Holder, Butch Lawter and Michael Starks will be on the ballot.
The first time around, Harding led with 527 votes. Holder was a close second with 516 votes, and Lawter followed closely with 513 votes. Atchison came in fourth with 457 votes, and Starks finished last with 124 votes. Turnout in the original election was about 12%, but that was with a pair of tax referendum questions on the ballot. In this election, all seven of Clayton’s precincts will be open for voting 6:30 am until 7:30 pm. Early voting started last week at the Johnston County Board of Elections office in Smithfield.
The office is open 8am - 5pm on weekdays and will be open 9am - 1pm on Saturday, December 6, for early voting. There will be no early voting locations in Clayton. The standalone election will cost an estimated $14,000, county Board of Elections Director Leigh Anne Price said. The Town of Clayton will cover the cost of the election, Price said. The State Board of Elections, which has the authority to set dates for new elections, opted for a standalone vote rather than have it as part of the Nov. 4 general election because of county and town officials' concerns that holding the revote so close to the appeals court's final ruling in the case might have resulted in further legal challenges. The candidates are scrambling to reach Clayton's 9,790 registered voters.