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Winterville council race may get new election

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WINTERVILLE, Pitt County - It's a race that went for one man on Election Night by eight votes, another by just one after provisional ballots were counted -- and now, neither. At least in the short-term.

John Hill and Ricky Hines were neck-and-neck for the last seat on the Winterville Town Council in last month's election. Hill lead on Election Night, but after all the votes were cast, Hines appeared to have won by the slimmest of margins.

The problem, however, was that 10 individuals just outside city limits in an area discussed for annexation by the town voted in the election when they should not have been allowed to. Six of the 10 voted on Election Day and the process in place did not allow the Elections Department to identify those ballots and eliminate them, casting a measure of doubt on the final result.

Fast forward to Wednesday night, when the Pitt County Board of Elections decided that issue meant it could not certify the results in that race.

It chose not to directly call for a new election, but rather attempted to hand the matter over to the State Board of Elections for further review.

Elections Director Dave Davis told NewsChannel 12 Thursday morning that didn't appear to be an option.

"(The board's) request was too vague," Davis said, adding he was working to determine whether the board wanted to request a new election or not.

If so, the matter can then be processed and brought before a Superior Court judge in Wake County.

The three-member Pitt County board said there was "no malicious intent" on the part of the voters that accidentally threw this race into question.

Hill was appointed to the current position upon the death of former councilmember Ron Cooper. Hill, Hines and John Hooks all ran to fill the remaining two years of the four-year term.

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