Panola and Presidents

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 5, 2012

Panola Co. and our Presidents: a short history of voting

Presidential history, Panola-style
Highest turnout: 2008, Obama vs. McCain
Biggest vote margin: 1996, for Bill Clinton
Closest race: 1988, Bush vs. Dukakis

By Billy Davis

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The General Election is barely a month away so it seemed like a good time for The Panolian to look back at Panola County’s voting patterns in Presidential elections since 1980.

Here’s what we found: there is no pattern.

Some states such as Ohio famously voted for the winner since the invention of the Slinky. In Panola County, there have been mostly hits and a couple of misses in the voting booth.  

Since 1980 Panola Countians have missed the Presidential bandwagon only twice, in 1980 by voting for President Carter and Walter Mondale, and in 2000 by choosing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

Voters selected the winning candidates in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2004, and 2008.

Here to follow are the election results starting with 2008, when Panola Countians selected then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain 52-48 percent.

The Panolian speculated at the time that the potential election of the country’s first black President likely boosted turnout among black voters at the polls.

A record-breaking 16,531 votes were cast throughout the county, totaling 80-percent turnout.

The circuit clerk’s office had reported a jump in newly registered voters prior to the election, and there were approximately 3,000 more votes cast in 2008 than in 2004.

Unofficial results showed Obama beat McCain 8,690-7,620, a spread of 1,070 votes.


Among Panola County’s voters President George Bush barely won over John Kerry 6,734-6,540, a difference of just 194 votes. Turnout was 66 percent.

The ballot also included a referendum on selling Tri-Lakes Medical Center. Eight-two percent of voters said, “Sell it.”


Democratic nominees Al Gore and Joe Liebermann pulled in 5,688 votes compared to 5,347 votes cast for George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Unofficial totals showed 12,334 votes were cast in the election.


Chris Allen Baker, the former Panolian reporter, wrote in 1996 that Bill Clinton’s re-election to the White House was the first time a Democrat had been re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt. That was in 1936.

A whopping 56 percent of Panola County voters helped send President Clinton back to office that year, which was the closet thing to a landslide for a Presidential candidate in our county going back to 1980.

Sen. Bob Dole and running mate Jack Kemp garnered just 38 percent in 1996.


It was the year President George Bush looked at his watch during his debate with the best talker of all time.

President Bush won Mississippi over then-Gov. Bill Clinton 50-41. But Panola County voters chose the Arkansas governor over the incumbent President 6,066-4,644, a spread of 1,422 votes.


Then-Vice President George Bush and running mate Dan Quayle squeaked out a win in Panola County the year “The Gipper” was hanging up his spurs. Bush won over Dukakis 5,356-5,196, a scant 162 votes.

Bush carried 40 states in a lopsided victory, beating Dukakis by 7 million votes. But he didn’t get much help in Panola.

Panolians also voted in the unit system that year, voting “Yes” over “No” 6,124-3,815.


Panola Countians used electronic balloting for the first time in 1984, when President Ronald Regan carried 49 states in a landslide victory over Walter Mondale. Mondale carried only his home state, Minnesota.

Panola voters were more stingy with their endorsement of a second term. Reagan won 47-44 percent over his challenger among Panola Countians.

Then-Circuit Clerk Robert Carter said 12,166 voters cast a ballot that year.

Elsewhere in The Panolian, two pieces of chicken, a potato log and a roll cost 99 cents at Super Saver.


It was the most glaring swim against the current in 30 years of voting. Panola Countians chose President Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan and running mate George Bush.

The vote wasn’t even close either. Voters went for Carter 6,179-4,219 over Reagan.

In defense of Panola voters at the time, Reagan only carried 44 states compared to six for the incumbent President, and won by a scant 8.4 million votes.