canvass kirk stephens

Jackson County Board of Elections chair Kirk Stephens, and board member Gail Debnam sign off on the board’s approval of two of the five provisional ballots submitted during Tuesday’s canvass. The canvass confirmed the winners of the election last week. 

By Kaylee Cook


Sylva’s town board election saw incumbent Mary Gelbaugh and newcomer Natalie Newman win election to the two open board seats.

The election night outcome was confirmed by Tuesday’s vote canvass.

Incumbent Barbara Hamilton finished third and lost her bid for another term.

According to Western Carolina University’s Madison Distinguished Professor and Director of the Public Policy Institute Chris Cooper, “exchanging the incumbent Hamilton for Newman will likely move the board in a more progressive direction – leaving Gelbaugh as the sole exception.”

The Jackson County Republican Party sent an email suggesting its membership vote for Gelbaugh, but later partially retracted their endorsement of Gelbaugh because of her voting in favor of the Sylva Pride Parade in September.

“While it’s impossible to know if this endorsement retraction drove down the Republican turnout for the race, it is certainly possible that Republican voters chose to stay home on Election Day rather than vote for a candidate who did not align with their party,” Cooper said. “It is still too early to know the details of who turned out on Election Day, but in terms of early and mail voting, out of 121 votes, only seven came from registered Republicans.”

Newman garnered 141 votes compared to Gelbaugh’s 125. Hamilton tallied 120 votes, followed by Carrie McBane with 79 and Luther Jones with 15. Jones withdrew from the race, but it was too late to have his name removed from the ballot.

The Board of Elections confirmed there were five provisional ballots cast in total, two during early voting and three on election day.

Provisional ballots are ballots that are used when there is a question about the voter’s eligibility that must be approved before the vote is counted.

The Jackson County Board of Elections held the canvass to address supplemental, absentee and provisional ballots that needed approval before being added to the totals.

Of the five provisional ballots that the board reviewed, three were disallowed by the state’s statute, meaning that they were cast by a voter who lives outside of the district in which the vote was cast. The remaining two ballots approved were in Webster and added to the official Election Day results.

After adding the approved provisional ballots, the Board of Elections determined that the winning write-in candidate for the Webster town council was Dale Collins who received 14 out of 21 write-in votes. The other candidates running on the ballot who will fill the remaining two seats were Danell Moses with 29 votes and Leigh Anne Young with 35 votes.

The Board of Elections certified that Collins won the election and intends to notify him of his win just as they do with all other candidates. Should Collins turn down the seat, the Board of Elections determined that it would be the responsibility of the Town of Webster to appoint someone to the board.

There were no changes to the results announced last week in Dillsboro and Forest Hills.