After nearly 10 months of recounts and legal challenges, the North Carolina legislature declared June Atkinson the winner of the 2004 election for state superintendent of public instruction last week.
Ms. Atkinson, a Democrat, was sworn in Aug. 23 after winning the majority support of both houses of the Democratic-controlled legislature. Her Republican opponent, Bill Fletcher, had disputed the close results of the Nov. 2 election, and won a state supreme court decision throwing out about 11,000 ballots cast in the wrong precincts. It is unknown which candidate would have benefited from a recount excluding those votes. (“Disputed N.C. Education Post Still Unfilled,” March 23, 2005)
In February, Ms. Atkinson persuaded lawmakers to pass legislation allowing them to take contested elections, including this one, into their own hands. The legislature delayed a decision on the race, however, until the U.S. Department of Justice certified that the measure satisfied federal voting-rights laws.
Before the legislature made its decision on a winner, Mr. Fletcher posted a letter on his Web site calling the impending action “a partisan vote” and an “abuse of power.” But he indicated that he would end his fight for the position, according to local newspaper reports.
The new superintendent, who had served as the director of instructional services for the North Carolina education department before the race, said in an interview, “I am glad that the general assembly affirmed the will of the people in North Carolina.”