Election ran smoothly in most areas

Published 5:06 pm Monday, November 12, 2018

Jeremy Weldon

Tuesday’s General Election ran smoothly in Panola County, for the most part, but trouble at the Pleasant Grove precinct resulted in more than 20 citizens not being allowed to vote. Some of the voters were finally able to cast their ballots after 9 a.m.

“It was absolutely uncalled for to not be allowed to vote,” said Glenn Faught. “We were there at 7 a.m. when the polls are supposed to be open and the people there did not understand how to operate the machines.

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Faught said he left Pleasant Grove thinking he could vote at the Sardis Courthouse. “When I got to the Sardis Courthouse they were very rude to me and said I had to go back to Pleasant Grove. It was almost nine before many could vote and it made people late for work.”

Faught said he was unsure if everyone who was initially denied voting eventually cast ballots.

Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps said her office began receiving complaints shortly after 7 a.m. when the polls were officially opened. Reports initially said the tablet-style computer that poll workers use to verify a person is eligible to vote, and at the correct precinct, were not working properly.

Election commissioner Kaye Smith immediately went to the polling place at the Pleasant Grove Fire Station and found that the computer was working properly, but that the worker did not know how to use the machine. She said the person stationed at the poll with the E-book did not know the passcode to get the E-poll book working. The instruction manual, lying unopened on the table, had the instructions and passcode clearly labeled, reports said.

The poll worker, Debra Jones, was assigned to work that precinct by Julius Harris, also an election commissioner. Harris originally had someone assigned to the poll, but she was unable to attend and Harris appointed Jones to substitute. Each commissioner appoints their own poll workers.

Jones had been through proper training (two sessions) but was unable to use the machine. Additionally, the substitute complained about the electronic system, saying she preferred to have a paper booklet with the names of registered voters.

Meek-Phelps said the county has been using the computerized system for several past elections, and no other poll workers have complained. On a FaceBook post following the election, Verna Hunter, who was a poll worker at the Sardis Library precinct questioned the election proceedings saying, “Too many voters were purged from the books on the inactive lists? Is this the new tactic to sway voters from voting now?”

An E-poll book is designed to allow workers to quickly locate a person’s name and verify eligibility by looking at a picture identification. With the old paper booklets, workers could scan the rolls to see who had not yet voted during that election. With the electronic system, workers can’t scan the voting rolls, and can only access a person’s name and address after typing in the name on their identification.

On her social media posts, Hunter offered no suggestions about how many people she believes should be purged from the voting rolls. The Elections Commission regularly purges voting rolls according to state election laws. Meek-Phelps said she reported the incident to the office of the Secretary of State, and will receive further information next week.

Meek-Phelps said that aside from the Pleasant Grove situation, all precincts ran perfectly on Tuesday. “Other than that situation, it was a very good day for voters in Panola County, and I want to thank all the people that worked so hard to make this election a successful one.”

The Elections Commission is expected to certify results of the election early next week. All the final numbers will be published at that time.

Unofficially in Panola County, voting results are as follows. These numbers are not all the official votes in some races because the districts cover multiple counties.

In the U.S. Senate regular race, Republican Roger Wicker received 5,712 votes to Democrat David Baria’s 5,067. Libertarian Danny Bedwell got 114 votes, and perennial loser Shawn O’Hara picked up 61 for the Reform Party.

In the U.S. Senate special election, Democrat Mike Espy got 5,293 votes to Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith’s 3,964. Republican Chris McDaniel received 1,532 and Democrat Tobey Bartee had 193.

In the 2nd Congressional District House of Representatives race, Democrat Bennie Thompson carried 6,333 votes, Independent Troy Ray got 3,278, and Reform Party candidate Irving Harris had 808.

For Mississippi Court of Appeals, District 2, Position 1, Deborah McDonald received 1,038 votes, Eric Hawkins had 989, and Ceola James had 461.

For Chancery Court Judge, Mitchell Lundy Jr. and Vicki Daniels ran unopposed in their districts.

For Circuit Court, Smith Murphey and Gerald Chatham Sr., were unopposed, or at least had no competition, in their districts.

Circuit Court Judge Jimmy McClure easily won re-election, outpolling challenger Bob Morris 7,020 to 3,531 in Panola County.

One South Panola School Board of Trustees seat was on the ballot. Incumbent Jerry Cooley beat challenger Lisbeth Bowlin 909 to 232 in the county.

In all, 11,310 of the 22,565 registered voters in Panola County cast ballots for a 50.12 percent participation in the election – a remarkably high turnout for a mid-term election.

Panola County voters will return to the polls on Nov. 27 to vote in the U.S. Senate special election where Espy and Hyde-Smith will have a run-off.