Recount would not affect other races or Aug. 27 runoff election
In response to multiple complaints regarding issues in the Aug. 6 primary elections, the Coahoma County Democratic Party met Thursday to review complaints and explain their position.
“There’s not as many complaints as I thought there were,” said Coahoma County Democratic Party Chairman Ray Sykes, adding he heard many of the same complaints from previous elections.
Darron “Gucci” Griffin wanted an opportunity to review all the boxes, poll workers and voters roll listings per precinct as he lost the District 4 race for the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors to incumbent Johnny Newson.
Rotosca Harris, who lost the tax assessor/collector race to Ann Williams had stated she wanted a vote count review.
Shirley Fair, who came in third place of four candidates in the District 5 Supervisor race, also wanted the boxes reviewed.
Incumbent Will Young finished first in the District 5 race and is scheduled to be in a runoff with Roosevelt Lee, who had 10 more votes than Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 27.
The complaints and the possible recounts will not affect Tuesday’s election and only those candidates in a runoff will be on the Aug. 27 Primary Election Runoff Ballot.
Sykes said Mario Magsby raised seven complaints after coming in second place of three candidates in the sheriff’s race.
Incumbent Charles Jones had just above 50 percent of the votes in the county’s closest race and a recount would have to move at least 48 ballots to Magsby to pull Jones under the 50-percent-plus-one-vote margin and force a runoff.
Magsby filed a lawsuit in circuit court this week against Jones, the other candidate for Sheriff Stacy Lester and the Coahoma County Democratic Executive Committee calling for judicial review of the contest for the election. He is looking for the court to declare the true results of the election, which he believes would order a runoff between him and Jones or a new election.
No Republican or independent is running in any of these races, so the Democratic nominee will be declared the winner of the primary and will hold office the next four years.
Sykes said Democratic Party committee member Jasmine Pittman was unable to be at Thursday’s meeting, but she talked to the candidates, let them know concerns and heard their issues.
Newson and Chancery Clerk Carolyn Parham, who were each re-elected to a second term Aug. 6, were the two candidates at the meeting.
“Of course, most of the complaints came from one side, not both sides,” Sykes said.
While the candidates who had fewer votes raised the issues, Sykes said there were some candidates on both sides who did not have any concerns.
Sykes said a main issue was faulty polling booths. Other concerns included poll workers allegedly receiving lunch from candidates, disregarding people needing help and allegedly trying to exit voters from the building who supported a candidate they did not.
“Those are most of the complaints that came from candidates, the ones (Pittman) talked to,” Sykes said.
With the District 5 runoff coming up, Sykes said poll workers would be trained again “to reiterate or make clear some of the complaints we actually got.”
Democratic committee member Rena Butler said one problem is voters may be unfamiliar with the poll books and need to be trained.
“Regardless of what you may be hearing, it’s not as many problems,” Sykes said. “When I say that, I’m not saying there’s not any problems. Everything’s a problem.”
Sykes said the city of Clarksdale having an election to determine whether or not there would be a bond to deal with flooding issues and street repairs also caused problems. The bond did pass, but some citizens had to vote in more than one place.
Sykes said Democratic committee members told people to make sure they voted in both elections.
“A lot of people got disgruntled and just didn’t want to vote,” he said. “Before the election, we tried to deal with the issue. It wound up not being as big an issue as I thought, but for the candidates, it was a big issue.”
Newson stressed people could vote in both elections.
“They were not prohibited from voting,” he said. “They were allowed to vote.”
One member of the audience said some workplaces allowed extended lunch breaks to vote in both elections.
Another member of the audience suggested someone from the election commission and Democratic committee should be present when the boxes are reviewed.
“I think somebody from this committee, preferably you, be there when the boxes are reviewed,” he said.
“Also, the candidate can be present,” Newson added.
“I will be there,” Sykes said.
Sykes said he talked with State Rep. Orlando Paden about passing legislation where individuals could cast their votes on a paper ballot to make things easier.
“These issues have been happening a long time now,” Sykes said.
According to Circuit Clerk Demetria Jackson, elections were certified Monday, Aug. 12 and candidates have until Friday, Aug. 23 to ask for a full examination.
Candidates also have 20 calendar days after the primary election to file a petition challenging the results.
“If the candidate does not agree with the decision of the executive committee, they would have to file a petition with the court and have to have two practicing attorneys certify,” Jackson said. “Each has made a full investigation of the law and the facts in the matter.”
The filing fee bond is $300 and helps cover the cost of the re-count. Candidates file with the circuit court and judges may require additional fees or bonds. Then, the circuit court must notify chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and a special judge will be appointed to hear issues about the election, if it gets to that point.
There have also been allegations that some candidates do not live in their district or have not lived in their district long enough to qualify for their post.
Qualifications vary from office to office but the main requirements are to be a resident and qualified voter from the district or county they plan to represent. Candidates may not have been convicted of a federal crime or certain Mississippi crimes defined as felonies punishable by incarceration in a state penitentiary, unless they have received a full pardon. They also may not be convicted of a crime in another state that is considered a felony under Mississippi law.
Candidates cannot have been legally declared mentally incompetent.
Candidates must fill out a statement of economic interest online within 15 days of qualifying with the Secretary of State. The next campaign finance report deadline is May 10 for any contribution over $200. Failure to file either one of these reports can result in fines.
Questions or concerns about voting issues, policy and procedure for any election should be directed to the Secretary of State’s office at (601) 359-1350.
Questions or concerns about candidate qualifications, ethics and conduct while in office should be directed to the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division at (601) 359-4258.