North Carolina politician trails in close primary race files election protests.

Raleigh — In his primary race, a veteran North Carolina legislator filed challenges Friday, alleging ballot distribution and counting errors and illegal voting-site campaigning put doubt on the results. Democrats Michael Wray, who joined the state House in 2005, filed the challenges with Halifax, Northampton, and Warren counties' elections boards in the 27th House District northeast of Raleigh.

From over 12,000 primary votes cast last week, Halifax County teacher Rodney Pierce topped Wray by 35 votes on Friday afternoon. The autumn winner faces no Republican opposition. Outside groups and Democrats have slammed Wray for associating himself with Republican-controlled House leaders, where he is a senior finance committee chair.

Pierce asked Wray to concede because he “seems to want to change the rules more than a week after the contest ended, just because he lost.” Press statements from Pierce supporters called the claims “bogus” and “dirty tricks.”

Wray disputes what transpired with over a dozen voters. Protesters allege several received the wrong party primary vote, while provisional ballots should be tallied. He further claims that a Halifax County Democratic poll observer compeled voters to vote for Pierce, breaching electioneering and coercion statutes.

“We are not contesting any votes. In a news release, Wray asked county boards to check for erroneous ballot rejections. “We simply want to count all valid ballots.”

The boards in each 27th District county will decide whether to dismiss each protest or hold a hearing with evidence. The Warren and Halifax boards are to discuss Wray's protest on Tuesday. With Pierce's vote margin, Wray might demand a recount, but he indicated Friday he will wait until the results are verified.

The protests were filed on the day all 100 counties' elections boards were expected to finish tabulating March 5 primaries ballot selections. The protest forced the Warren board to postpone its canvass meeting, elections director Debbie Formyduval said Friday afternoon.

Before Friday's canvass, the county board reviewed more than 11,000 provisional absentee or in-person ballots to decide if they will be counted. State Board of Elections canvass is March 26.

Other General Assembly incumbents who lost their primaries were Democratic Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham County, Republican Reps. George Cleveland of Onslow County, and Kevin Crutchfield of Cabarrus County.

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