BARCO — The Currituck Board of Elections decided against holding preliminary hearings Tuesday on two complaints challenging the residency of a candidate for the Currituck Board of Commissioners.
The election board did not hear Moyock Steven Shawgo’s protest of Stuart Innes’ candidacy for the District 4 seat on the commission board, noting the complaint was filed after ballots for the March 3 primary election had already been printed.
The elections board will instead hear Shawgo’s protest of Innes’ candidacy after the primary election.
On the advice of County Attorney Ike McRee, the elections board took no action on Shawgo’s request for a preliminary hearing on his second complaint. McRee pointed out that there is a federal injunction in place against the North Carolina law on which the second complaint is based.
Shawgo filed the two complaints — an election protest and a voter challenge — on Feb. 6 against Innes, who is challenging incumbent Paul Beaumont for the District 4 commissioner’s seat in next month’s Republican primary. The winner of the primary faces no opposition in November.
Shawgo’s election protest alleges that Innes “fraudulently registered and voted in Currituck County for several years” while he primarily resided in Chesapeake, Virginia.
McRee told the elections board that it shouldn’t conduct a preliminary hearing on Shawgo’s protest because there is a “statutory automatic stay” on such hearings because the protest was filed after ballots for the primary election had been printed.
If the board had conducted a preliminary hearing, the burden of proof would have been on Shawgo to prove Innes had fraudulently voted. The elections board then would have determined if there was probable cause to move forward with a formal hearing in the matter.
“My recommendation to the board is that you take no action today and do not hold a preliminary hearing,” McRee said. “This matter will come back before you, first for preliminary hearing, to determine if there is probable cause to proceed forward with a full hearing on the merits of the protest following the election.’’
Shawgo’s voter challenge alleges that Innes is not a resident of North Carolina. But based on McRee’s advice, the elections board decided not to hold a preliminary hearing on it either.
“You are unable to do that because of a federal injunction that was entered in August of 2018 in which a federal judge for the (U.S.) Middle District of North Carolina has determined in a order that our statue for challenging a voter registration violates the National Voter Registration Act,” McRee said. “It appears on the face of this challenge that it is a challenge to a change of residency and therefore it would be affected by this federal injunction.’’
Innes’ attorney, L. Phillip Hornthal of Elizabeth City, described the charges against his client as “frivolous and malicious.” He noted that Shawgo did not attend the Currituck Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday.
“The gentleman (Shawgo) did not even bother to show up for the hearing today,” Hornthal said. “The (elections) board, and their attorney, acted appropriately on both issues.”
Shawgo could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.