Panolian Editorial

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rumors of unfair election practices are nothing new

Last week Panola County’s District Two voters were involved in an election where the difference amounted to 141 or approximately 10 percent of total votes.

The point of this writing is not who won or lost, but the manner in which local campaigning is conducted and the somewhat questionable and possibly unethical practices that are accepted.

This is not new.

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Each statewide election year, it appears that in the case of incumbent supervisors whose re-election bid may be in trouble—their district gets the most road work, the most roads paved, the most culverts and gravel in driveway entrances. Again, this is nothing new; its been happening for decades.

Rumors of misuse of absentee ballots have also been floating around for decades. According to the local Circuit Clerk’s office, after a request is made, an application, an application envelope, a ballot and ballot envelope plus instructions are mailed to the address of the citizen requesting it. Once delivered, the ballot material is out of the hands of election officials until it is returned, also by mail.

Evidence surfaced of an election commissioner with what could have been a stack of absentee ballot envelopes prior to the election. Add to that the usual complaints of unauthorized “voter helpers,” and we have problems.

Another area of concern is at the voting booths where alleged assistance is offered to those voting from those not legally qualified to assist. It also has been witnessed by credible sources from periods covering several elections and seems to continually happen in certain precincts.

Prior to the most recent election, it was apparent that roads in that district were getting a lot of attention and it is still apparent that fresh gravel and culverts were placed in numerous driveways. Coincidental? Maybe, maybe not.

There is nothing illegal about block voting and there is nothing illegal about influencing a vote if done properly.

People have complained before, but past complaints were tainted as racially motivated. Among those complaining now are respected African-Americans, some candidates and some not, taking the race card away from the argument.

Illegal and un-ethical balloting needs to cease and those responsible need to be held accountable.

The practice of spreading gravel and giving away culverts to influence elections needs to stop and stop now. That practice should have ceased when centralized road maintenance, the unit system, was overwhelmingly approved by Panola’s voters.

Our balloting process is next to sacred and those responsible should say loud and clear, anyone misusing our system will suffer serious consequences.