Nearly two months have passed since voters went to the polls in Winterville, the small Pitt County town near Greenville, to select its mayor and two Town Council members. On Tuesday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway decided the victor in one of the council races — a contest that resulted in a one-vote difference. Ridgeway held a hearing on Dec. 29 to determine whether the Pitt County Board of Elections exceeded its power when it decided to decertify the results from the race between John Hill, Ricky Hines and David Hooks. The case was unusual from the start. The election was held in November to fill a seat that became vacant last year after a councilman died. On Nov. 7, Hill was the unofficial winner with 421 votes, eight more than Hines got that night and 47 more votes than Hooks received.
After the provisional and supplemental absentee ballots were added to the totals, Hines won the race by one vote — 425 to Hill’s 424. Hill requested a recount and before that was done, it was discovered that 10 people who should not have received ballots for the Winterville elections received them. The voters were in a neighborhood approved for annexation into the town limits, but the annexation had not happened before the election.
Nonetheless, the recount and official canvass resulted in the same result. Hines won by one vote. Hill could have filed a protest to remove the ineligible votes, but he did not.
On Nov. 22, the day before Thanksgiving, the Pitt County Board of Elections certified the results, and Hines as the winner.
Those results, though, have not been certified by the state elections board.