DOBSON — A voting challenge has been set for a full hearing regarding the chairman of the Surry County Republican Party.
After a preliminary hearing on Monday, the three-person Surry County Board of Elections voted unanimously to hold a hearing regarding whether Surry GOP chair Mark D. Jones is entitled to vote in Surry County.
Nearly two weeks prior to Monday’s preliminary hearing on the matter, Mount Airy resident Diana Gwyn filed a challenge to Jones’ residency, claiming he does not live in Surry County, in the precinct in which he is registered to vote.
Jones took the helm of the county party in March, winning in a three-way race for the chairmanship at the party’s annual convention.
According to voter records, Jones registered to vote in Surry County on Dec. 30, 2015. Prior to that, he was registered to vote in Craven County.
The address associated with his voter registration is 389 Beechnut Lane. The address is that of the Beechnut Family Campground, which, according to the campground’s website, does offer year-round site leases.
Jones said he was assigned to a job based out of Surry County. He is employed by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. After renting a home in Surry County, he opted to make the move to the campground.
According to Gwyn, Jones leases a space at the campground for a camper. However, he does not reside at the camper.
Jones said the challenge amounts to “a vindictive attempt to assassinate my character.”
“I am in complete compliance with the law,” said Jones of his living situation. “I will defend my right to vote to the bitter end.”
North Carolina statute defines a person’s residence for voting purposes as “the residence of a person in which that person’s habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever that person is absent, that person has the intention of returning.”
Surry County Board of Elections Director Susan Jarrell said Jones was not permitted to defend himself at Monday’s preliminary hearing. However, Gwyn presented her case against the party chair.
“The finding of probable cause only goes to whether the matter should be held over for a full hearing and not to the merits of the case,” explained Jarrell.
Jarrell also noted the full hearing will be held on May 8 at 10 a.m. at the Surry County Government Center, located at 118 Hamby Road in Dobson.
At that hearing, both sides of the issue will be permitted to present evidence, including witness testimony, said Jarrell. Following the hearing, the board of elections will make its determination in the case.
Should the board rule in favor of Gwyn’s challenge, it would effectively cancel Jones’ voter registration in Surry County, said Jarrell.
If that is the board’s ruling, Jones would be entitled to an appeal in Superior Court.
Reach Andy at 415-4698.