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Graham County Education Board member wins by 1 vote in recount

Lake Santeelah in Graham County.
Lilly Knoepp/BPR News
Lake Santeelah in Graham County.

Republican Debra Hank Dinschel has won a seat on the Graham County Board of Education, following a recount on Friday.

Just one vote separated Dinschel and Democrat Maria Shook in the race for a spot on the county school board. The candidates had 1,437 votes and 1,436 votes, respectively following the November 8th midterm election. The count held on Friday after a hand-to-eye recount.

Teresa Garland is the director of the Graham County Board of Elections. She says this is the first time a race has been separated by just one vote in the 11 years she has been at the board.

“You never know how it’s going to go. You never know. I don’t even try to guess any more. I just say whoever has got the most votes wins,” said Garland.

The recount was held on Friday December 2 at the Graham County Board of Election. After the recount, Dinschel had 1,436 votes and Shook had 1,435 votes. Dinschel was announced as the winner.

Midterm election results were certified in North Carolina in November. A handful of counties recently held recounts – including Graham County.

BPR spoke with Chris Cooper, head of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University on November 9th. He explained that recounts are a regular practice that shows democracy is working.

“I think the fact that one vote is separating two candidates right now just reminds us how much every vote really does count,” said Cooper. “And not just in some existential way, like in an actual way in terms of how we're governed.”

Find out more about the rules surrounding recounts and protests at NC Board of Elections website. Local newspaper The Graham Star livestreamed the recount on their Facebook page.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.