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Board of Elections deems Highlands Commissioner candidate ineligible due to residency

A candidate challenge hearing took place on August 22, 2023, in relation to the upcoming November 2023 municipal election in Highlands, North Carolina. The challenge pertained to the residency status of candidate Overton Tucker Chambers. The challenger, Derek Taylor, represented Highlands for Good Government and contested the validity of Chambers’ residential address based on the requirement that candidates must live within the city limits to run for the Commissioner seat.

Residency within the municipality’s city limits is a key criterion for candidacy in a municipal election. Highlands follows this requirement, stipulating that candidates must reside within the town’s city boundaries to qualify for the Commissioner seat. The challenge against Overton Tucker Chambers was centered on his claimed residential address and whether it met the necessary criteria for candidacy.

The Challenge Hearing was originally set for Tuesday, Aug. 15. However, when a member of the panel chosen by the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) notified the group that he couldn’t attend that day, the date was changed to Tuesday, Aug. 22. An email was sent out to participants and the media announcing the new date, but Taylor says he wasn’t included on the email list. Consequently, he wasn’t able to explain that he wouldn’t be able to attend in person due to previous plans that involved being out of the country.

According to Taylor, he challenged Chamber’s residency because his primary domicile is not within the city limits and the address he used to file for office is a commercial business address. Evidence presented by Taylor showed that prior to the pending election, Chambers was registered to vote and has always been registered to vote at an address located in on Flat Mountain. His address was changed just prior to filing for office to an address located on Hedden Lane. 

Chambers said his driver’s license has always displayed the 401 N. 5th Street in Highlands as his address and his personal and business mail has always gone to that address, too, so he thought he could change his voter registration without a problem.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) assembled a panel to assess the challenge. The panel consisted of Chairperson Kathy Tinsley, Vice Chairman Gary Dills, Member John Vanhook, Member Jeff Gillette, and Kirk Stephens, who chairs the Jackson County Board of Elections. This panel was tasked with evaluating the evidence presented by both parties involved.

During the candidate challenge hearing, both sides presented their evidence. Derek Taylor, representing Highlands for Good Government, presented material questioning the accuracy of Chambers’ stated residential address. 

After reviewing the evidence and arguments, the panel arrived at a unanimous decision with members voting to uphold the challenge against Chambers. This decision indicated that the panel found substantial evidence supporting the concerns raised by Derek Taylor. As a result, Overton Tucker Chambers was disqualified from running for the Commissioner seat in the upcoming Highlands municipal election.

The disqualification of Overton Tucker Chambers has altered the landscape of candidates participating in the November 2023 municipal election in Highlands. This ruling emphasizes the significance of adhering to residency prerequisites to ensure that candidates genuinely represent the community where they reside.

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