State panel appoints new elections board members

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The State Board of Elections has appointed three lawyers to the New Hanover County Board of Elections. Republicans Jonathan Washburn and Jamie Getty, and Democrat Tom Pollard were appointed June 30 and will take office July 21.

Washburn, a real estate broker and lawyer, previously served 16 years on the elections board. He also ran unsuccessfully for District Court judge. Sober since 2002, he also runs a private halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts, Tree of Life. Some of them are referred by the courts.

Getty is a lawyer with Black, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed. She has lived in Wilmington since 2010 and is also a member of the state Commission on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. She said she was interested when the elections board opportunity came up, and the New Hanover County Republican Party Executive Committee nominated her for the position.

Pollard was the longtime city attorney for Wilmington. He retired in 2009. He said he was interested in the position as a resident of New Hanover County and in light of recent changes to voting laws.

“I just think that this board is crucial in making sure elections are fair, and part of that is making sure everyone who’s eligible can register and vote,” he said, noting that the board is also responsible for ensuring compliance with all election laws.

The board of elections ensures that elections are run properly, handles voter complaints and oversees voter registration and other practices. By law, the governor’s party — in this case, Republican — gets two members and the minority party gets one member on the three-person board.

All three incumbents chose not to seek reappointment to a board that for the past year has seen its share of discord, particularly between Chairman John Ferrante, a Republican, and Tannis Nelson, a parliamentarian and the lone Democrat on the board. Republican Marlene Mitchell was the third member.

Nelson complained that Ferrante was deliberately intimidating and that he exerted too much control, often to the exclusion of the other two members. The chairman also was publicly chastised by the State Board of Elections for his handling of a voter’s complaint.

For his part, Washburn said he expects that the new board members will have a more harmonious relationship.

“It is my opinion that the board of elections is working best when it does not make the news,” he said.

email Tricia Vance at [email protected]

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