Commissioner candidate distributes illegal sample ballots


Covington said distribution was effort to educate voters 

By Kevin Spradlin

A candidate for the Richmond County Board of Commissioners has been told by the State Board of Elections to stop distributing sample ballots that lacked a legally mandated disclaimer.

Peggy Covington

Peggy Covington

Peggy Covington, a Democrat, is one of six candidates vying for four open seats on the board. Covington previously served on the board from 2008 to 2012. An inquiry was made to the Richmond County Board of Elections. Connie Kelly, local elections director, said she forwarded the inquiry to the North Carolina Board of Elections for guidance.

As of 1:20 p.m. Thursday, there has been no formal complaint made. A formal complaint could elevate the issue into a slightly more serious matter.

Covington is one of four challengers fighting incumbents Ben Moss, a Republican, and Democrats Thad Ussery and Don Bryant. Democrat Herbie Long and Republican Donnie Richardson also are in the contest. The six candidates are vying for four available seats on the seven-member board.

General statutes 163 through 165.2 addresses sample ballots and requires any document resembling an official ballot to contain a disclaimer that it is not the official ballot.

“No person other than a board of elections shall produce or disseminate a document substantially resembling an official ballot unless the document contains on its face a prominent statement that the document was not produced by a board of elections and is not an official ballot.”

Kelly said she first was told by Dan Moody, of the Richmond County Republican Party, that someone working for Covington was distributing the marked ballots outside the early voting center at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office in downtown Rockingham. Those ballots also lacked a disclaimer.

This image shows a portion of a sample ballot modified by the Richmond County Republican Party with the legally mandated disclaimers.

This image shows a portion of a sample ballot modified by the Richmond County Republican Party with the legally mandated disclaimers.

With a disclaimer, Kelly said, the candidate is “taking the monkey off our back, or any perception that they’re claiming” it to be a legitimate ballot.

“That’s what it did not have,” Kelly said.

A second concern, Kelly said, came by way of a Hamlet resident who received a similarly marked ballot in his mailbox — again, without the disclaimer.

Kelly said at about the same time, another candidate brought the issue to her office.

Covington said she mailed between 500 and 600 fliers but a far fewer number of sample ballots, which included the filling in of the bubbles beside the names of candidates for several judgeships, made it to the mailboxes of “friends and people I know.”

All of the ballots marked by Covington filled in the circles of Democrats, she said. Covington also filled in the circles of Democratic candidates for other contests, including state Senate District 25, U.S. House of Representatives District 8, U.S. Senate, Richmond County Clerk of Superior Court and, for commissioner, herself.

The inquiry was made Monday with the state Board of Elections. Covington said Thursday her intent was voter education. If an error was made, “I hold myself responsible.”

But Covington didn’t back up from her original intent.

“If they don’t know, they don’t go,” Covington said. “I was trying to inform my community. You got to know who’ on the ballot. We want Democratic judges.”

“I hate to be racial about it,” Covington said, “but black people don’t vote.”

Covington spoke of the disparity between black and white voters and how, as a candidate, “I can’t campaign or go door-to-door in a white community, I can’t put signs in their yards … but I still need everybody’s vote.”

State law allows a candidate to send a sample ballot as Covington did but requires the candidate to obtain approval from the candidates and to put a disclaimer that the selected candidates’ authorization was received.

Covington said candidates have distributed such mailings in the past but a complaint was made now, she said, because she’s black — and that people are concerned.

“People are making it (a) bigger (issue) because the black vote is coming out,” Covington said.

Sheryll Harris, of the State Board of Elections, said early Thursday she had not yet spoken with Covington on the matter but that Covington had returned a phone call.

Moody said late Thursday afternoon he was meeting with county Republican Party leadership to decide whether or not to file a formal complaint. He said the decision would be based, at least in part, if Covington mailed the fliers with sample ballots that lacked the disclaimer after her campaign was told the disclaimer was needed.

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  • Marcus Bryant

    Reading that Mrs Covington finds it nessecary to vote a straight ticket, of either party, is disturbing. Do a little research and be an informed voter. All Mrs. Covington wanted to teach people was how to vote a straight ticket to the party she feels suits HER agenda. As far as I’m concerned, she has done her and the party a disservice. As an independent, I could never vote for Mrs. Covington. Not for her fake ballots( this could be a mistake) but for the last statement implying someone is trying to stifle the black community. Do we really want someone that is going to bring her race up everytime she doesn’t get her way or is caught doing something wrong? If she couldn’t take this election serious enough to learn the rules, what makes anyone think she cares enough to go the extra mile we would expect from a community leader?

    • Daffy

      To many people want to pull the “Race” card every time things don’t go their way or when it suits them to stir the “Drama Pot”. Covington has ALWAYS been racist. Just watch pass commissioner meetings. The ones from when she was on the board. I would also ask her “Why cant you go door to door at white peoples houses or place signs in white peoples yards ?” She will pick up /take up a cause just because it involves someone black. She is not and has never been a “Richmond County” commissioner. Just a “For who she wants” commissioner. Who needs her on the board with a one sided one track mind ? Its hard enough to get the RCC board to get anything done in the first place.

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