Election commissioner race

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 8, 2012

Pair of competitive races on way

By Billy Davis

Four incumbent election commissioners were certified this week to seek re-election November 6 to the Panola County Election Commission.

Seeking re-election are Dorothy Kerney-Wilbourn, District 1; Julius Harris, District 2; Jimmy Herron, District 3; and Jerry Perkins in District 4.

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The deadline was June 4 to qualify to appear on the General Election ballot in November.

Two of the five races for election commissioner could be competitive: Perkins drew opponent Wanda Lawrence Carmichael while three other candidates are seeking the District 5 seat.

Longtime election commissioner Ronald “Runt” McMinn did not qualify for re-election in District 5 after announcing last year he planned to step down.

McMinn’s decision leaves the seat open for a new commissioner and three have qualified to fill it: Edith Cole, Deliley Gatson and Bonnie Land.

Cole has said she is making her first run at public office, though she is well known to political candidates who seek her help to win black support in west Batesville.

Cole has also butted heads with others, including the Election Commission itself, over her longtime practice of hauling voters to the polls. She said last year she carries people to the polls but denied telling them who to vote for or getting paid to help candidates.  

Land formerly served as District 4 election commissioner until Perkins, a former county supervisor, defeated her in 2008. Land has since moved to District 5 in Batesville.

Gatson is an instructor at the Finch-Henry Job Corps Center in Batesville.

Election commissioner districts follow county supervisor districts, meaning some Batesville residents and voters west of the city limits will decide the winner. Voting precincts in District 5 are Batesville City Hall, the county courthouse, Enon/Locke Station, and Patton Lane.

McMinn is serving as chairman of the election commission, which means the new commission must choose a new chairman in January 2013.

The five-member Panola County Election Commission oversees the general election following party primaries. The election commission also hires and trains poll workers, prepares ballot boxes and voting machines, and purges voter rolls of disqualified voters.

For many years the election commission has performed its work behind the scenes, but ongoing accusations of election problems have dogged commissioners during their most recent term.

An organized group of citizens attended a public election commission meeting last fall and confronted commissioners about alleged election troubles at the Como precinct that date back several years.

The attendees confronted commissioners about an election report from the Mississippi Secretary of State that documented numerous election-day problems at Como in 2009. McMinn and Perkins acknowledged to the group they had yet to read it.

Election commissioners are paid $84 for every five hours of election-related work they perform. They’re also eligible for Panola County government’s health insurance coverage.