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88 percent stayed home in special election for District 11 House seat

By Billy Davis

A scant 12 percent of Panola voters in House District 11 cast a ballot Tuesday in the House of Representatives special election.

Official results show 2,245 ballots were counted in the four-way race that now moves to an April 16 runoff.

Lataisha Jackson led the field of candidates with 38 percent of votes cast in Panola while Anderson Boothe, with 33 percent, followed with a second-place finish. Marshall Bartlett finished third with 20 percent and Ederic Kerney, with eight percent, came in fourth.

House District 11 covers 14 voting precincts that stretch from Courtland to Como, and also includes a portion of Tate County.

All totaled, Jackson received 854 votes from Panola Countians and Boothe garnered 746 votes.  Jackson led the vote count at four precincts while Boothe finished first at seven others.

In Tate County, Bartlett won 186 of 443 ballots that were cast followed by Kerney with 150, Jackson with 83, and Boothe with 24.

The special election was set by Gov. Phil Bryant after the January death of Rep. Joe Gardner, who was himself elected to the seat in 2007 after the death of Rep. Leonard Morris.

The widows of Gardner and Morris, Ella Gardner and Belinda Morris, are supporting Boothe in the special election.

A one-race special election typically draws a small pool of eligible voters to the polls, and a runoff draws even fewer.

Reached after the Tuesday election, Jackson said she hopes voters return April 16 to have a “voice” in District 11.

“When they vote, they vote as a voice to bring vital change that’s needed in the community,” said Jackson, who also urged voters to “get behind the best qualified candidate.”

Asked about getting voters to the runoff, Boothe said he plans to remind District 11 voters in coming days that job creation and job training are key issues he will take to the state legislature.

“My focus is on job creation and job training because a trained workforce is vital,” he said. “Large corporations, when they look at a community, look for a trained workforce.”

Jackson pointed out that Tuesday’s turnout was better than the 2007 special election, when Gardner moved to a successful runoff against Teresa Wallace. In fact, the runoff next month mirrors 2007, since Boothe is from Batesville and Jackson is from Como.

Turnout in 2007 was nine percent in Panola County and 12 percent in Tate, The Panolian reported at the time. A total of 1,206 votes were cast in Panola, 774 for Gardner.

Turnout for this week’s special election was strongest at the Macedonia-Concord precinct, where 136 ballots were cast, a turnout of 32 percent.

The second-highest turnout was at the Como precinct, where 476 votes were cast, a turnout of 26 percent. That was the largest number of ballots cast Tuesday at all 14 precincts.

The lowest turnout was at the Tocowa precinct, where poll workers saw 22 voters, four percent of registered voters, Tuesday during the 12-hour day.

Only 12 voters cast a ballot at East Batesville, though that percentage was seven percent.

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