When it meets today, the State Board of Elections should declare Steve Troxler the new commissioner of agriculture. Troxler's opponent, Britt Cobb, should accept that ruling and drop any thought of further appeals.

Troxler, a Guilford County farmer, leads Cobb by 2,287 votes. His victory has been held up by 4,438 lost votes from Carteret County. They could have changed the outcome, but no one can say for sure because they disappeared into electronic oblivion without leaving so much as a paper trail.State law provides an unclear remedy to this kind of problem. The board of elections, it says, may conduct a new election "in the entire jurisdiction in which the original election was held."

There's disagreement about the meaning of "entire jurisdiction." Some say in this case it's Carteret County. Some say it's all of North Carolina.

Almost everyone says that calling a new election across the whole state just for agriculture commissioner is crazy. It would cost more than $3 million and couldn't take place before March.

In its first stab at finding a solution, the board fortunately didn't call a second statewide election. It unfortunately did come up with an absurd alternative, announcing that a new election would take place in Carteret County for the 4,438 people whose votes were lost and for everyone else there who did not vote at all in the first election. A judge rejected that option and told the board to try again.

What it should do today is say that nearly two months have passed since the election, and the voting is over. It's too bad ballots were lost, and better election equipment and procedures must be put in place as soon as possible. But it's time to name a winner.

The obvious choice is the man who captured most of the votes that were available to be counted. That's Troxler, a Republican whose claim further includes the fact that he won 60 percent of the recorded ballots in GOP-leaning Carteret County.

Cobb, appointed last year to replace Meg Scott Phipps as agriculture commissioner, is an honorable man and should know when to make a graceful exit for the good of the state.

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