Townsend wins recount in Lunenburg County sheriff’s race

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

One month later, the numbers look almost identical. In the recount on Tuesday, Dec. 19, Arthur Townsend still collected the most votes in the Lunenburg County sheriff’s race. In fact, this time around he actually gained a vote. 

On Election Night, 3,841 residents voted in Lunenburg. Out of that number, 3,802 cast a ballot for sheriff. In the recount tally, Townsend finished with 1,844 votes and his challenger, Michael Fowlkes, ended with 1,811. Coming up in third place was Ronnie Long Sr. with 139 votes and there were 7 write-ins. 

“All glory be to God,” Townsend said in a statement, thanking residents for voting him in to another term. “I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for your support over the last 16 years, especially since Election Night. I am humbled by the messages, calls, texts and kind words from my supporters as we awaited the official numbers from the recount.” 

Townsend added that he’s also heard loud and clear the concerns raised by some residents during the election process. 

“I will be hosting open house meetings that will allow citizens to voice their concerns directly with me and my staff,” Townsend said. “As these meetings are scheduled, we will provide details as they become available. Together, we will continue to make Lunenburg a great place to call home. God Bless the citizens of Lunenburg County.” 

The Dispatch attempted to reach Fowlkes, whose complaint triggered the recount process, to see if he was satisfied with the way things went Tuesday. However, we haven’t been able to reach him. 

Lunenburg County sheriff’s race concerns

One group that was very happy with the recount numbers was the Lunenburg County Board of Elections and the elections staff. In Fowlkes’ complaint, he had alleged that the Election Night ballot numbers didn’t match in most of the precincts. 

“In 8 out of 11 precincts, the total number given to poll captains are different from what is posted on the government website,” Fowlkes says in the complaint. 

Specifically he cited these examples: 

  • Plymouth: 293 total was verbalized, 290 was reported to state
  • Browns Store: 403 was verbalized, 402 was reported to state
  • Rosebud: 202 was verbalized, 200 was reported to state 
  • Hounds Creek: 356 was verbalized, 350 was reported to state
  • Arrowhead: 164 was verbalized, 162 was reported to state 
  • Reedy Creek: 217 was verbalized, 213 was reported to state

However, remember at the beginning of this article, when we said 3,841 residents voted in Lunenburg and just 3,802 of those cast a vote for sheriff? That’s why the verbalized numbers at the precinct were different than what the state received. The precinct numbers are the total number of people who voted on Election Day at that specific polling place. The number reported to the state are the ones who cast a ballot in the sheriff’s race at that precinct. 

“This shows our original numbers were good,” said Lunenburg Board of Elections member Oliver Wright. “We hope that this will help restore some faith. The numbers match.” 

Clearing up confusion

On Election Night, there had been some confusion in the race, as state results momentarily seemed to show Fowlkes as the winner. Wright said as they worked to input results after the polls closed, the new State Board of Elections software froze up. That left the results incomplete until the next morning, when state officials were able to fix the problem.

This was the first time Lunenburg and other counties were using the software and multiple areas reported issues. Nearby Buckingham County, for example, wasn’t able to report any results until the day after the election, due to a similar glitch. Wright said he understands the concerns from residents who went online and saw the numbers (and winner) seemingly change, but he hopes this recount was able to clear things up. 

“We hope this will dispel some people’s doubts about the voting system in Lunenburg,” Wright said.