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Richmond County Board of Elections sworn in

Ernie Walters, Hilda Pemberton, Carlton Hawkins, A.B. Brown and Hazel Robinson are sworn Friday afternoon as members of the Richmond County Board of Elections by Clerk of Superior Court Vickie Daniel.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The five members of the newly appointed Richmond County Board of Elections have a challenging year ahead of them.

With a special election and the need to find new polling places on the horizon, they will have to make a few decisions.

But first, they had to be sworn in.

The N.C. State Board of Elections on Feb. 7 appointed Republicans A.B Brown and Ernie Walters and Democrats Hazel Robinson and Hilda Pemberton to the county board. Nearly two weeks later, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Democrat Carlton Hawkins as chairman.

Friday, the five were administered their oaths of office by Clerk of Superior Court Vickie Daniel prior to the board’s first meeting.

Serving on the board is nothing new to any of them, as they all have experience.

Prior to Robinson’s appointment last April, Hawkins was the lone Democrat on the board for several years, alongside Brown and Walters.

Brown was first appointed in 2012 and Walters in 2014. Pemberton, of Norman, previously served on the board from 2005-2013 until state board changes by then-Gov. Pat McCrory.

Brown and Pemberton have also both served as board chair in previous years.

“I have a lot of confidence in the leadership of the office and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Walters said after being sworn in.

Hawkins added that the professionalism of the office staff, including Elections Director Connie Kelly and assistant Teresa Smith, is a big reason Richmond County isn’t having the same problems as other county boards.

The board’s first item of business was to nominate a secretary.

Robinson nominated Pemberton, who turned it down; then Brown nominated Robinson who was unanimously approved.

A slight change was made to the board’s meeting schedule, moving the time from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. However, their next meeting will be Monday, March 11 because of scheduling conflicts.

When discussing the 9th Congressional District special election, Kelly could only give the board speculation on the timeline, which won’t be announced by the state board until Monday.

Based on the schedule for the 3rd District election to replace the late Congressman Walter Jones, Kelly said the first primary could possibly be around April 30, with a second, if needed, in July. 


If a second primary is not necessary, Kelly said the general election could be held on that date. However, if there is a second primary, the general election wouldn’t be until September.

Complicating matters even further is the need to find new polling sites in Norman and Ellerbe prior to the election.

When discussing the budget, Kelly mentioned that prior to a law change last year, the board was able to have additional sites for early voting at Ellerbe Town Hall and Cole Auditorium in Hamlet and alternate the times and staffing to save money.

However, the new law requires the sites to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which add to the staffing costs.

In an email to County Manager Bryan Land earlier this week, Kelly said the special election could cost the county up to $150,000 that hasn’t been budgeted.

An upcoming statewide precinct project could also shift locations, with Kelly saying there are currently four that are oversized, while others in rural areas may be combined.

If the county gains additional precincts, then the board will have to purchase additional equipment.


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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.