By Jeremy Weldon
Less than 10 percent of registered voters in Panola County took part in Tuesday’s primary election, and fewer still are expected to participate in the June 26 runoff.
Of the 22,686 names on the active voter roll in the county, Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps reported that 1,928 machine votes were cast with an additional 19 write-ins submitted. There were also about 40 absentee and provisional votes cast.
A breakdown of the numbers indicate that 864 votes were cast in the Democratic primary and 1,064 in the Republican.
The low turnout is the result of ballots with no local races. Primaries were held here for both parties in the race for one of MIssissippi’s two U.S. Senate seats. On the Democratic side, state Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis and venture capitalist Howard Sherman were the top vote getters statewide and will advance to the June 26 runoff.
Incumbent Republican Roger Wicker easily beat challenger Warren Boyanton in the U.S. Senate race, and will run against the winner of the Democratic runoff in the November general election.
Locally, Baria led the field of six with 33 percent of the vote, followed by Sheman with 29 percent. Sen. Wicker received 84 percent of the Republican votes cast in Panola County.
The only other ballot for Panola voters on Tuesday was in the 2nd Congressional District where long-time Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson ran unopposed in his party’s primary. Thompson will be returned to office without a November challenge as Republicans offered no candidates for the seat. He received 853 votes here.
Meeks-Phelps said there were no problems reported at the 24 polling places in the county, although one scanner was not working at the courthouse Tuesday night and slowed the vote counting slightly.
She said the problem will be corrected before the runoff election in two weeks.
The most closely watched election on primary day in Mississippi was in the 3rd Congressional District where a slew of candidates were vying for the seat vacated by Rep. Greg Harper’s retirement after 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Top pollers in the Republican primary for that seat were Michael Guest and White Hughes. The winner between the two in the upcoming runoff will face state Rep. Michael Ted Evans, the Democrats’ nominee, in November.
Candidates for U.S. Representative in the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts had no primary opposition and will face off in the general election in the fall.