EASTON -- A week after he was sworn into office following a controversial election, the new mayor of Snow Hill has dismissed the town's three-member Election Board.
In a letter sent to each board member this week, Mayor Raymond A. Warren said he and the Town Council planned to reorganize the local election process, which officials admitted was flawed during the May 5 election of the mayor and two council members.
Mr. Warren, a newcomer to the town of 2,500, easily defeated his two opponents in the race for the highest elected office in Snow Hill. But the election was marred by discoveries of major discrepancies in the unofficial vote tallies. Residents later charged that voter registration rules had been violated and that proper election practices not followed.
"I regret any personal anguish you may have experienced in connection with the honest mistakes that occurred during the recent election," Mr. Warren said in his letter to the Election Board members. He added that the dismissals were necessary "to regain public confidence in our election process."
A group of unhappy Snow Hill voters asked that the May 5 election results be scrapped and that a new election be held. The Town Council rejected the request and dissatisfied voters said they would seek a legal challenge to the May 5 election.
Mr. Warren said yesterday he and town officials will appoint a new board only after the election process is restructured.
"The first order of business is to make it a better system," he said.
News of the dismissal caught Snow Hill residents and election board members by surprise, even though Mr. Warren said before he was sworn in on May 14 that he would address problems with the election process.
"These allegations that people have leveled on the election, there's nothing to it," said Charles "Buddy" Jones, a former town councilman who joined the election board this year. "This is my first experience, and my last, I guess," he said.
Three people who voted in the May 5 election did so after registering on the spot, a violation of town voting rules and practices. Mr. Jones said the incident was the result of an "honest mistake."
Election Board Chairwoman Ruby Waters said she was willing to step down. "If they don't want me, if they think I did a bum job. . . My conscience is crystal clear," she said. "I'm not going to get upset over this."
Unsuccessful mayoral candidate Patricia Cooper Compton said the board dismissal could help heal election wounds, but she said some residents will not be satisfied until a new election is held.