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General Election balloting is Tuesday

Panola County expected to have good turnout; more than 1,500 absentee votes already cast

The 2020 General Election has arrived and Panola County is ready for yet another election, although a number of safety precautions will be adhered to at each polling place. A larger-than-normal turnout is expected due to the Presidential Election, and the extra turnout holds the potential to affect a couple of local races.

At the top of the ballot are the nine candidates for President, the most (and generally only) recognizable names are those of Democrats Joe R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris and Republicans President Donald J. Trump and Vice-President Michael R. Pence. Voters, of course, don’t actually vote for Presidential candidates, per se.

They are actually voting for electors, whom they want to represent their wishes in the much-maligned, but Constitutional based Electoral College, which will ultimately decide who will lead the nation for the next four years.

The rest of the names on the Presidential portion of the ballot represent a slew of minor political parties with candidates that nobody has heard of, much less intend to have assume the highest office in the land, if not the world. One notable exception is an Independent candidate Kanye West, reported to be an entertainer of some sort. He has no political experience and no regular job, earning money by singing, dancing, and acting for television shows and movies.

Panola voters will also help choose a U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative this election. In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy for the second time in three years for the seat (she was appointed and won a special election in 2018) and 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bennie Thompson, a leading Democrat in the U.S. House, will once again trounce a Republican challenger, this one named Brian Flowers, and retain the “Delta District” in Washington, D.C.

Next on the ballot is a non-partisan judicial election for Mississippi Supreme Court District 3 (Northern) Position 3. The incumbent judge is Josiah Coleman and his challenger is Percy Lynchard.

Four of Panola County’s five Election Commissioners are on the ballot, unchallenged. They are Dorothy Kerney-Wilborn (Dist. 1), Julius Harris (Dist. 2), Wanda Lawrence Carmichael (Dist. 4), and Kaye Smythe (Dist. 5).

Commissioner Wayne Belk (Dist. 3) has an opponent, Gloria Tucker.

One of the most closely-watched local races is a special election that will be part of Tuesday’s ballot – the race to fill the seat of the late Constable Raye Hawkins, who was killed in the line of duty 11 months ago, shortly after being re-elected to a new four-year term.

Former Sheriff Dennis Darby, who lost to current Sheriff Shane Phelps last November, is back on the ballot, running for the Constable seat of the 2nd Judicial District in Panola County. He is challenged by current Deputy Maurice Market, who has been a deputy for several years and worked as a lawman in Sheriff Darby’s administration.

The Constable Post 2 office mostly covers the southern part of the county and is aligned with the South Panola School District boundaries.

The last local race is for the District 2B seat in the North Panola School District. Incumbent school trustee Verna Lasha Hunter is challenged by Edward “Eddie” Henderson in that contest.

Three statewide ballot measures also appear on this year’s ballot. First, is the Initiative 65 measure that would allow the sale of medical marijuana in the state. Polling numbers indicate the measure will pass, although a late push by doctors, nurses, pastors, teachers, and some elected officials could make the vote closer than expected by some.

The anti-marijuana contingent has focused instead on having voters choose the 65A option, a proposal placed on the ballot by the Mississippi Legislature that most observers believe would help limit the scope of legalized medical marijuana.

The highlights of the 65A option are more control by the State Legislature, much stricter guidelines for prescribing federally-banned marijuana, considerable more oversight at the physician-patient level, and a requirement that the drug must be obtained through a pharmacy as opposed to “pot dispensaries.”

Ballot Measure 2 is House Concurrent Resolution No. 47, an amendment that would require the Governor or any other statewide candidate receive a majority of the votes in the general election. The requirement of receiving the most votes in a majority of Mississippi House of Representative’s districts would be removed by passage. Following the general rule of “if you don’t understand it, vote no” is expected to be the guide for this proposal for most voters.

Finally, voters will have the chance to vote on House Bill 1796, the Flag Referendum. A photo of the final rendition of a proposed new state flag appears on the ballot. Electors will simply choose yes or no, depending on whether they approve of the design to become the new official banner of Mississippi.

If the yes votes carry the ballot, the new flag will go into production quickly and soon be the standard around Mississippi. If the no voters win out, the whole matter will go back to the Legislature and the process of replacing the flag that served Mississippi for decades will begin again.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.  The Courthouses will be open until noon Saturday for absentee voting. Mail-in ballots will be accepted up to five days after the election as long as they contain postmarks no later than Election Day.

According to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, 142,591 absentee ballots had been received in the State of Mississippi for the 2020 General Election, as of the end of last week. In Panola County, 1,552 absentee ballots had been turned into the Circuit Clerk’s Office.