Panola Vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Panola Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps (left) helps Election Commissioner Dorothy Kerney-Wilbourn prepare affidavit ballots for distribution to voting precincts Monday morning. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

State, federal eyes will watch Panola vote
Feds present in one Mississippi county today: Panola

•    Panola Circuit Clerk’s office: 563-6210 (Batesville) and 487-2073 (Sardis)
•    Mississippi Secretary of State Election Hotline: 800-829-6786
•    Civil Rights Voting Section at U.S. Dept. of Justice: 1-800-253-3931
•    FBI Office in Oxford: 234-1713.
•    Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Coleman: 234-3351
•    Except for first-time voters, there is NO requirement to show ID to vote today.
•    The voting precinct at Cold Springs has been relocated to the Sardis Lower Lake fire station.
•    Polls are open from 7 a.m until 7 p.m.

By Billy Davis

An assistant U.S. attorney and FBI agents will be standing by in Oxford today to handle any Election Day-related complaints in the Northern District, which includes Panola County.

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Election observers from state and federal agencies will also be in Panola County while the polls are open, The Panolian has learned.

United States Attorney Felicia Adams announced Robert Coleman II, an assistant U.S. attorney, will be available at the Oxford office while polls are open.

FBI agents will also be available to receive allegations of voter fraud, and complaints about discrimination will be handled by the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

Coleman will be on standby in the Northern District because of the “Election Day Program,” which provides points of contact for the public on Election Day, Adams said.

“Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud,” Adams said in a statement.

Coleman also served as “election officer” for the Northern District in 2010 according to a press release from that year.

The availability of the FBI is not new. The 2010 press release also stated the FBI will be available to hear allegations of voter fraud and other election-related abuses.

Panola County will also have election observers in voting precincts to monitor the 12-hour Election Day.

A spokesman for the Mississippi Secretary of State said last week one observer will be in the county from that state agency.

A spokesman for the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office said an observer will be in the “general area” of North Mississippi but declined to say where.

At least one federal observer representing the Department of Justice will be in Panola County on Election Day, said Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps.

The circuit clerk said she received a phone call last week from a Civil Rights Division attorney.

“I was told it’s standard procedure for them to come to Panola County due to our history of voting problems,” said Meek-Phelps, who is serving her first term as circuit clerk.

The Panolian also learned last Monday federal election observers will be present in 23 states today including in Mississippi, where only one Mississippi county — Panola — is listed among 51 around the country.

In recent years poll watchers have contacted Jackson alleging voter fraud and since then observers have become a common sight on Election Day.

A year ago, candidates and the non-partisan election commission said the 2011 election was one of the most orderly in recent years.

“I look forward to the day when we don’t have to have any observers anymore,” said Meek-Phelps.