Billy Davis Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Billy Davis

Evidence of voting irregularities could justify election challenge

Dennis Darby’s decision to examine ballot boxes, which he announced this week, may help him chip away at his 435-vote deficit to Otis Griffin.

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But it won’t fix what ails us. And what ails Panola County is alleged mismanagement of some voting precincts.

That’s not to say Darby’s scrutiny of 1,222 absentee ballots won’t find some dead people who, despite their flight from planet earth, miraculously managed to sign and date an absentee ballot and its envelope.  

The more likely result of the canvassing is to find technical glitches that allow the Darby campaign to kick out some ballots. But that tactic could very well backfire, since it’s easy for a person to miss a step in the complicated process and make their ballot a ruined vote.

Darby led Griffin in the absentee ballots, which means Darby has more opportunities for spoiled ballots than his opponent.  

What the Darby campaign could do is wait. And take a deep breath. And wait some more.

Darby finds himself in an uneasy position. He expected to win, like many first-time candidates do, but then narrowly lost.

That narrow loss is coupled with Darby’s first-hand experience as a poll watcher at a precinct that has been notorious for complaints of voting problems.

He has some supporters urging him to contest the election while others urge him to concede and run again in the upcoming August primary.

One tactic for the losing candidate is to get copies of reports from the Mississippi Secretary of State, the Mississippi Attorney General, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The state and federal agencies sent observers to the Como precinct for the Nov. 23 runoff.

Darby should have a good idea what those observers documented since he was present as a poll watcher and witnessed what took place.

If those reports record proof of serious voting irregularities, Darby and his campaign could contest the election on the documented evidence. The recorded problems could then be presented to the Panola County Election Commission and Darby could ask the five-member board to throw out the Como boxes.

The election commission has the authority to do so under Mississippi Code 23-15-593.

Hopefully the election commission, after years of fielding complaints, could finally question Como poll workers asking them to account for reports of questionable activity at their precinct.

Somebody somewhere needs to be held accountable. It may or may not start with an absentee envelope, but it should end with someone explaining the why and how on Election Day in Como.