Altered Sample Ballot

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Candidates left off Dem ballot they paid for

By Billy Davis

Democratic candidates are seeking answers after a Democrat-created ballot that circulated before Election Day suggested voters select a pair of independent candidates over a pair of Democrats.     

“I want my money back,” said Supervisor Kelly Morris, who said he paid the Panola County Democratic Party $100 for printing costs.

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Morris, who handily won re-election Nov. 8, said an altered version of the sample ballot showed independent James Perkins was written in his place.

Perkins placed third in a five-man race with 488 votes.

John Thomas, who won a District 3 supervisors race a week ago, said he viewed a ballot before the election that showed the name of his opponent, independent Boyce “Crow” Crowell, had been written.  

“I want my money back, too,” Thomas said Monday in Batesville, where he was attending the Second District meeting of the Board of Supervisors. He also paid $100, he said.

Before last week’s General Election, The Panolian had reported a sample ballot was circulating that marked all county Democratic candidates except one — Thomas. Crowell was marked instead of Thomas.

Thomas said the second Democrat ballot he viewed is different, because the first pre-election ballot was a copy of the sample ballot that is obtained from the circuit clerk’s office. On that ballot, all candidates are listed and the oval beside the preferred candidate is filled in.

Thomas said the newer ballot put out by the Panola County Democratic Party was a two-sided sheet of paper in which someone had typed the name and political race of each Democratic candidate. Many of those ballots had Perkins and Crowell written in instead of Morris and Thomas, he said.    

Both Morris and Thomas said they attended a regular meeting of the Panola County Democratic Party on Nov. 10, where they questioned party chairman Rufus Manley about the altered ballots.

The two candidates said they learned from Manley that party member Debra Jones was set to print the ballots but someone stepped in to “help” her.

“We were told that person volunteered to help and that person altered the ballots,” said Morris, who was not told the name of the person.

Jones was out of town and unable to attend the Democratic meeting, Morris said.

She could not be reached at home when a reporter called and left a message Monday morning.
Manley said Monday he could say little about the ballot incident because he wants all parties at the December meeting to discuss and resolve the issue. That meeting is set for Thursday, December 8.

The name of the person who altered the ballot will be named, he said.

Manley acknowledged the Panola County Democratic Party sponsored the pre-election ballot, which contradicted a statement he made Nov. 3, when he said the party does not put out a sample ballot.

Manley was quoted in the previous Panolian story about the earlier sample ballot in which the oval next to Thomas’s name was not filled in.

“I don’t believe I said that,” Manley said. “If I did, I was referring to that particular ballot.”
Thomas, referring to Manley, said the party chairman was helpful to him during the campaign.

“And Debra works tirelessly for the county party,” Thomas said.

“I just want to know who changed the names,” he added.