By Dave Russell
The makeup of the Sylva town board could come down to a coin toss. Two write-in candidates took seats in Forest Hills. Both unchallenged candidates in Webster won their races, unofficial voting results show.
Election officials will conduct canvassing at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15. Should the final tally confirm Sylva town board candidates Carrie McBane and Ben Guiney tied at 106 votes, a coin toss or other random method would determine who takes a seat behind the commissioners’ table in Sylva’s Town Hall.
When polls closed Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., 16.2 percent of Sylva’s 1,521 registered voters had cast ballots. Voters could select three candidates in the race.
Incumbents David Nestler (155 votes) and Greg McPherson (110) return to the board. The other candidates on the ballot were newcomer Luther Jones (70) and former board member Danny Allen (65). Write-in candidates Natalie Newman (40) and Charlie Beam (35) filed paperwork with the Board of Elections after the deadline.
Making official decisions in Sylva will be Mayor Lynda Sossamon (term expires in 2021) and board members Mary Gelbaugh (2021), Barbara Hamilton (2021), Nestler (2023), McPherson (2023) and either Guiney or McBane.
For the first time ever, Sylva’s town board race saw a state political action committee get involved and endorse candidates. Down Home North Carolina promoted incumbents Nestler and McPherson and newcomer McBane.
McBane also had support from a loose affiliation of voters who oppose R-5600, the plan to reconfigure U.S. 23/N.C. 107. An active Facebook group, Say No to the Road, endorsed her and write-in candidates Beam and Newman.
Write-ins were a major factor in the Forest Hills race, where voter turnout was 27 percent.
Former Forest Hills Mayor Jim Wallace ran unopposed for the seat being vacated by current Mayor Kolleen Begley. He received 79 votes from Forest Hills’ 333 registered voters. There were 16 write-in votes cast.
Incumbent Jonathan Brooks (26 votes) and newcomer Timothy Eckard (24) were the only names on the ballot, but neither will serve on the board.
Write-in candidates Nilofer Couture (61) and Marcia Almond (56) defeated them handily.
Forest Hills leaders going forward are Mayor Wallace (2021), Mayor Pro Tem Clark Corwin (2021) and board members Jerry Rice III (2021), Couture (2023) and Almond (2023).
Incumbent Kelly Donaldson (21 votes) and newcomer Allen Davis (15) ran unopposed for the Webster town board and will serve four-year terms. There were no write-in votes cast in the contest.
Less than 13 percent of Webster’s 280 registered voters cast ballots.
Webster’s town representatives will consist of Mayor Tracy Rodes (term expires in 2021), Vice-Mayor LeighAnne Young (2021), and board members Alan Grant (2021), Danell Moses (2021), Davis (2023) and Donaldson (2023).
Voters at the newly combined Sylva/Dillsboro precinct used the new Express Vote System and DS200 ballot scanner from Election Systems and software. The change comes after voting machines the county used previously were decertified when the North Carolina Legislature mandated voting machines that produce a paper ballot.
Voters will still mark their ballots electronically, but the machine will print a paper ballot which will be read and tabulated by a scanner.
The new system will also aid Jackson County in becoming Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
Voter ID was not required in this election, but is slated to be mandatory for the 2020 elections.