Two weeks after the primary election, an official winner has finally been declared following a recount in an insanely tight race between two prominent Waynesville Democrats for the N.C. House of Representatives.
Joe Sam Queen beat out Danny Davis by a mere 17 votes — less than 0.002 percent of the 9,969 votes cast in the race.
“It definitely shows that one vote can make a difference,” said Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman, the director of the Jackson County Board of Elections.
While Democrats were clearly torn on which man they wanted to send to Raleigh, Queen said he is pleased to win.
“I want to pull together because this is an important year,” said Queen, who will now face the Republican opponent Mike Clampitt from Swain County come November.
Queen and Clampitt are vying for the N.C. House seat currently held by retiring Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva. The seat represents Jackson and Swain counties and the greater Waynesville and Lake Junaluska area of Haywood County. The district leans strongly Democratic.
The race between Queen and Davis came down to the wire on election night, with Queen emerging as the top vote-getter by a mere 11 votes. Queen’s margin widened to an 18-vote lead the following week after a few dozen provisional ballots and late absentee ballots were added to the results.
Provisional ballots are cast when poll workers can’t find a voter’s name on the roster of registered voters. They are given a provisional ballot, which is then set aside in a special stack until election workers have a chance to research whether the ballot should be counted.
A few late absentee ballots usually trickle in after the election as well, but as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, they get counted.
Davis then called for a recount — a right entitled to any candidate under state election law when a race is within a 1-percent margin.
In today’s era of computerized voting terminals, however, recounts rarely change the outcome. But, Davis did pick up one extra vote in the recount, discovered by election workers in Jackson County when hand counting a handful of paper ballots from voters who mailed in absentee ballots.
“They just didn’t do the bubble correctly,” Lovedahl-Lehman said. “The scanner wouldn’t read it, but the board members could look at it and see the voter intent was for Davis.”
Queen said he and Davis both ran fair, clean campaigns.
“It is by far the most pleasant election I have been through,” said Queen.