A complaint filed with the N.C. State Board of Elections alleges that Republican state Senate candidate E.C. Sykes does not live in the district where he is running for office, as required by state law.

The complaint was filed last week by activist Todd Stiefel of Raleigh on behalf of the N.C. Democratic Party. It alleges that Sykes has not lived at the Wake County address listed on his voter record and instead lives in a home in the North Ridge area of north Raleigh. That rental house would actually be in Senate District 13, not District 18 where Sykes is running against Democrat Mary Wills Bode to replace Democrat Sarah Crawford.

The complaint details that private investigators tailed Sykes from late September through the first week of October, speaking to his neighbors and observing the activities outside the rental house in North Ridge and at a camper on a lot in District 18, where Sykes says he has been living while he and his wife built a house nearby.

Todd Stiefel

Sykes purchased the land in 2021 and registered to vote with that address in October that year. According to the complaint, Sykes and his wife renamed the road the property is on from “Melvin Arnold Road” to “Pro Deo Way,” which in Latin means “for God.” Stiefel is a billionaire activist who has established an organization called the Stiefel Freethought Foundation to fight the use of faith among elected leaders in their policy deliberations.

“Mr. Sykes did not live in the district on November 8, 2021, and does not live there today,” Stiefel’s complaint reads. The Senate seat for which Sykes is running could be a key pickup for Republicans in Wake County as they seek to regain a supermajority in the General Assembly. Republicans need a net gain of three seats in the House and two in the Senate to have veto-proof margins with 72 seats in the House and 30 in the Senate.

The complaint alleges that Sykes and his wife are not living in the camper and that neighbors do not see anyone living there. Sykes told WRAL that he is in fact living in the camper while his home is being built.

The N.C. Democratic Party and Stiefel have asked that the filing be considered an “election protest,” rather than a residency challenge because the deadline to protest residency claims has already passed.

Earlier this fall, the Republican candidate for N.C. Senate District 3 filed a residency challenge against Democrat Valerie Jordan. The protest was stacked with pages of documentation that indicate Jordan actually lives in Raleigh and is using her parents’ address in Warren County to vote and run for office.

In that case, the Currituck County Board of Elections voted that Jordan is likely not a resident in the district where she is running for state Senate. However, in a 3-2 party-line vote, the State Board of Elections made a ruling saying Jordan was eligible to remain a candidate for the November contest.

Disputed legislative elections are reviewed by the legislature itself. The legislature could refuse to seat a candidate even after a successful November general election.