WINTERVILLE, NC (WITN) - A superior court judge has made the final decision in a close town election, decided by one vote, that has been in limbo for months.
Ricky Hines beat out the incumbent, John Hill, for the unexpired seat by one vote after the official canvas.
It was then discovered 10 people living outside of the town limits, scheduled to be annexed in, voted.
The votes were certified by the Pitt County Board of Elections.
But on December 7th, the State Board of Elections got involved.
The county election board then revoked the certification, requesting that the state determine if a new election should be ordered.
Hines then filed a petition stating the county board acted outside of its authority and could not revoke the certification.
Judge Paul Ridgeway agreed, stating Hines will be the declared winner.
Hines says "I just want to move on. It's time we move on and let the healing process begin and let the work begin and let my work speak for itself and get in there and do what I'm supposed to do for the citizens of Winterville.
Hines says he will be sworn into office at the next council meeting on January 8th
Update: WITN just spoke with Ricky Hines whose attorney just informed him the case will be heard in Wake County Superior Court on December 29th.
With the backing of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Winterville town council candidate whose election has been in limbo is calling on the court system to honor previously certified election results.
The petition was filed on Tuesday in Wake County Superior Court on behalf of Ricky Hines and contests that once an election is certified state law does not allow a local board of elections to revoke that certification.
On election night in November, incumbent John Hill was the unofficial winner by 8 votes. During canvas that followed it was determined that Hines actually won by one vote.
Soon after, it was determined that ten voters on a street that was soon to be annexed by the city of Winterville were wrongfully allowed to vote in the election.
Hill requested a recount, which found that Hines had still won by just one vote.
No protest of the election was filed in the election.
The SCSJ says that Hill was issued a certificate of election on November 27th, but on December 6th, the NC State Board of Elections contacted the Pitt County Board of Elections to tell them that the error involving the unannexed voters could have affected the outcome of the election.
The SCSJ says the board was instructed to convene an emergency meeting, request a new election, and revoke the certification of election issued to Hines.
The Pitt County Board of Elections back on December 6th told WITN that the Superior Court would determine what happens next.
You can find a copy of the petition by the SCSJ attached to this story.
An emergency board of elections meeting was called Wednesday to address several questions about the outcome of one election in the east.
It comes less than one week from when the announced winner was to be sworn into office.
Monday, December 11, Ricky Hines was supposed to be sworn into office as the newest member of the Winterville Town Council after it was determined through recounts and canvassing that he had won last month's election by just one vote.
However, the Pitt County Board of Elections called a special meeting at the request of the state to challenge that result.
The Pitt County Board of Elections met in emergency session with the outcome of a race in the balance.
On election night, John Hill was the unofficial winner over Ricky Hines by eight votes.
At canvass, when supplemental absentee and provisional ballots were added, Hines was determined to be the winner by one vote.
But there was an irregularity with this election. 10 voters who live in an area of Winterville that have not yet been annexed into town and should not have voted.
It's a dispute that would normally head to the state board of elections, but because North Carolina currently has no such acting board, the decision is in the hands of the North Carolina Superior Court.
"They're going to be working with the Superior Court as far as getting information they need and discussions as to what is the best remedy for it, a new election, deducting votes, what have you," explains Dave Davis with the Pitt County Board of Elections. "We kind of have to wait and see what will happen at this point."
Hines thought the matter had been solved. "I have patience and I think this right here is just preparing me for this seat. You got to stand fast on what you believe in the outcome that I will be the councilman for the city of Winterville."
Despite this setback, Hines says it's still full steam ahead for him as a candidate.
"I'm still here and I just want to represent the citizens of Winterville," Hines tells WITN.
In the meantime, it's up to the Winterville town attorney to determine what happens to the vacant seat.
Hill is currently filling that vacant seat and is suspected to continue until this matter is determined by the courts, though he will not officially be sworn into the seat on Monday.
The North Carolina Board of Elections has been vacant since July of this year when Gov. Roy Cooper refused to make appointments to the new board, which was designed by Republicans to be split equally among Republicans and Democrats, which is a change from the previous elections board, which was controlled by the governor's party.
An emergency meeting will be held this afternoon to discuss irregularities in a municipal election held last month.
The Pitt County Board of Elections will hold the emergency meeting at 4:30 p.m. to discuss last month's election in Winterville.
On election night, incumbent John Hill was the unofficial winner by eight votes.
Following the canvassing of votes, including provisional and absentee ballots, his challenger, Ricky Hines, was declared the winner by one vote.
It was discovered that some people who live outside of the town voted in the municipal election
Pitt County Board of Elections Director Dave Davis says 10 votes came out of that area and they cannot be separated and uncounted.
After the recount on November 21st, Hill said would not contest the results.
The elections board meets at 4:30 p.m.