PEMBROKE — The incumbent Saddletree representative on the Lumbee Tribal Council has been declared the winner of the do-over District 9 election after only one of the 20 provisional votes was deemed eligible to be counted.
Anita Hammonds-Blanks will be sworn into her second three-year term tonight before a regular meeting of the 21-member council. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Turtle.
“I’m glad this is all finally over and I have been certified the winner in District 9,” she said.
On Wednesday, the tribe’s enrollment office reviewed all of the provisional votes and found only one that passed muster.
“Either the voter had never enrolled in the tribe, their tribal membership cards were not updated, or the voter did not live within the district.” said Sheila Beck-Jones, chairman of the five-member Board of Elections.
Challenger Elaine McNeil Collins had requested that the provisional ballots be counted after she finished 14 votes behind Hammonds-Blanks, 218 to 204, during the original Jan. 12 do-over election. Provisional ballots are only counted if they have the potential to change an election outcome.
The do-over election was ordered by the tribe’s Board of Elections after four people were found to have voted out of district during the original election, which was held Nov. 17. Before the four ineligible voters were discovered, McNeil Collins was leading Hammonds-Blanks 200 to 197.
Beck-Jones said that two Elections Board members, both candidates, and an attorney representing McNeil Collins watched the verification of the provisional ballots. She said that everyone then returned to the Board of Elections office at COMtech, just outside of Pembroke, to officially count the one ballot and certify the outcome.
“We ended up not counting the ballot, which would make no difference in the election’s final outcome, when Elaine and her attorney did not show up at the board office,” Beck-Jones said. “After all, it was Elaine who had requested that the provisional ballots be counted.”
McNeil Collins had unsuccessfully petitioned the Lumbee Supreme Court to prevent the do-over election from being held. She argued that Hammonds-Blanks did not provide sufficient evidence to prove irregularities when a protest hearing was held. She also said that Beck-Jones should not have been involved in the Saddletree election because she and Hammonds-Blanks are “close friends.”
The Robesonian could not reach McNeil Collins so that she could comment for this story.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.