Breaking news: sheriff’s election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010


By Billy Davis

First-time sheriff’s candidate Dennis Darby announced Tuesday he plans to examine ballot boxes following his narrow loss to Otis Griffin.

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Any post-election review of ballot boxes typically means a candidate examines accepted and rejected absentee ballots and affidavit ballots.

In the sheriff’s runoff, 1,222 absentee ballots and 118 affidavit ballots were counted, said a spokesman for the circuit clerk’s office.

More than 13,000 votes were cast in the runoff in which Griffin won by 435 votes.

The planned examination of the ballot boxes is scheduled for Thursday at the county courthouse in Batesville, the same day and place where Griffin will be sworn in as Panola County sheriff.

Griffin’s swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Scrutiny of the ballot boxes is often a first step when a candidate plans to contest the outcome of the election. But Darby said the post-election examination, known as canvassing, is not an indicator that he is contesting the outcome of the Nov. 23 runoff.

“I’m looking for irregularities,” Darby said. “I’m just trying to get into the boxes.”

Mississippi election law allows a candidate 20 days from the date of the election to formally contest the results.

Mississippi law, in a separate provision, allows a candidate to examine the content of the boxes under the scrutiny of the circuit clerk or a deputy.

Recent contested elections in Panola County, for Como mayor and state senate, have moved to a courtroom. But Darby said he is not seeking to take the election results to court.

“This is not about being sheriff. It’s about trying to clean up the system,” Darby said, alluding to past allegations of voting irregularities in the county.

Darby has alleged he saw questionable activities at the Como precinct, where he served as an official poll watcher for his campaign.

The Como precinct has been the scene of election troubles in the past, and observers for two state agencies and the federal Department of Justice camped out at the precinct during the run-off election.

The Como precinct is the largest in Panola County. Unofficial returns showed 926 votes were cast there in the runoff, with Griffin winning 689 of them.

Griffin, who was also in Como, has said election problems in Panola County stem from eligible voters not being allowed to cast a ballot. 

Griffin has been informed by formal letter of the planned canvassing of the ballot boxes, Darby said.

Circuit Clerk Joe Reid, election commissioner Ronald McMinn, and other run-off candidates have also been notified, he said.