Judge temporarily blocks Robeson commissioner election certification

Carolina Journal photo by Mitch Kokai

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  • A judge has temporarily blocked certification of a Robeson County commissioner primary election. The losing candidate accused the winning incumbent and a fellow commissioner of bribing voters.
  • A temporary stay of election certification lasts through May 3. A May 1 hearing will address challenger Lacy Cummings' complaints against commissioners Judy Oxendine Sampson and Wixie Stephens.
  • Sampson defeated Cummings by five votes in the March 5 primary.

A judge has temporarily blocked certification of a Robeson County commissioner primary election. The losing candidate in the March 5 Democratic primary has leveled accusations of bribery against the winning incumbent and another sitting commissioner.

Judy Oxendine Sampson defeated Lacy Cummings by five votes, 875 to 870, in the District 5 primary. It was the only county commissioner race on the primary ballot. Sampson is set to face Republican Lynn Locklear in November.

The Robeson County elections board rejected Cummings’ election protest on March 27. The State Board of Elections denied an appeal on April 10.

Superior Court Judge Hoyt Tessener signed on order Tuesday issuing a temporary stay of the election’s certification. The stay remains in effect until May 3. A hearing is scheduled for May 1 to address Cummings’ complaint.

Lawyers representing Cummings, Sampson, and the county and state elections boards all signed the order.

A court petition from Cummings outlined his bribery accusations involving Sampson and a fellow county commissioner, Wixie Stephens.

Stephens “paid potential voters between $15 and $60 to cast at least 9 votes in favor of Ms. Sampson,” the petition alleged.

“During early voting, Stephens approached and then drove the grandson, since deceased, of Paul Hunt to the Lumbee Tribal Building to procure a ‘tribal card’ to present as identification, which he did a [sic] voted for Sampson in exchange for $40.00 from Stephens,” the petition continued.

“On March 1, 2024, Stephens approached Kalen Sampson and offered him $60.00 to cast a vote for Sampson. Stephens then offered Kalen Sampson another $80.00 to distribute to four (4) other voters at $20,00 to cast their votes for Sampson. Each of these five (5) persons casted a vote for Sampson in District 5,” Cummings’ petition claimed.

“On March 5, 2024, the day of the general election, Stephens drove Paula Ann Hunt to a poll at the Raft Swamp polling site and completed the young woman’s ballot for her because she allegedly could not read the ballot, and paid her $25.00 for this. Additionally, Stephens, a bail bondswoman by trade, offered to bail Ms. Hunt out for free should she be arrested if she would cast her vote for Sampson. Hunt did cast her vote for Sampson,” the petition continued.

“Trent Locklear was approached during early voting by Stephens to accept $15.00 to cast his vote for Sampson. When he explained that he did not have proper identification, Stephens told him to vote using Locklear’s twin brother’s identification. He did refuse, but Trent Locklear witnessed his brother and several others accepting cash money to cast a vote for Sampson,” the complaint alleged.

“Stephens was contracted to bail Kaitlyn Woods from the Robeson County Detention Center for $750.00 and an additional $200.00 per month for an additional twelve (12) months. Stephens offered to waive February’s $200.00 deposit if Ms. Woods would cast her vote for Sampson, and Ms. Woods did cast her vote for Sampson,” Cummings’ petition argued.

Cummings pulled those anecdotes from sworn affidavits. His petition indicated that he received those affidavits on April 11, a day after the state elections board denied his appeal.

The petition suggests the voter testimonials “that have come forward since and that continue to come forward shock the conscience.”

“Unfortunately, more of these sworn testimonials continue to come to Cummings,” his complaint added.

“These allegations, if true, would each substantiate the probable occurrence of an outcome-determinative defect in the manner in which voters were counted or results tabulated, and also the probable occurrence of an outcome-determinative violation of election law, irregularity, or misconduct,” according to the petition. “Only one or two of these allegations, if true, would almost certainly substantially and directly affect the outcome of a 5-vote difference election.”