The Presidential Election helped propel a voter turnout three times larger than usual in Coahoma County on Nov. 3, with Democratic candidate Joe Biden taking the local vote despite President Donald Trump taking the state.
A total of 7,171 ballots were cast out of 15,558 registered voters in the county for a 46.09 percent turnout. Circuit Clerk Demetria Jackson estimated 1,700 of those ballots were absentee and they were expected to be counted Wednesday morning for final local numbers.
According to Jackson, there are usually 500 to 800 absentee ballots and approximately 2,500 total local voters in an election.
The first ballot box of the 18 precincts came in from the old driver’s license building at 144 Ritch St., which is in District 4 for the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors. The final ballot box came in at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday from the Coahoma County Expo Center, which is in District 5.
“My overall thoughts of today are the turnout was exceptionally great, more than what we expected,” said Jackson Tuesday night. “The Coahoma County voters really came out today.”
Jackson attributed the 1,700 absentee votes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was more absentees this time than we’ve ever had since I’ve been the clerk in office,” Jackson said. “They didn’t want to stand in line because of their age or their temporary disability.”
While the Presidential Election was too close to call Tuesday night, incumbent Donald Trump (R) won Mississippi’s six electoral votes. However, former Vice President Joe Biden (D) took 5,189 votes (72.72 percent) to Trump’s 1,846 (25.87 percent) locally.
Jackson felt the Presidential Election played a significant role in the voter turnout.
“It just depends on who’s running (and voters’) feelings based on whichever candidate they’re trying to support,” she said.
It appears incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will retain her US Senate seat. However, Democratic nominee Mike Espy took 5,466 votes (76.61 percent), while Hyde-Smith had 1,625 votes (22.78 percent) in the local count.
US Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) will retain his seat in the second congressional district and earned 5,270 votes (75.93 percent) in Coahoma County while Republican nominee Brian Flowers had 1,667 votes (24.02 percent) locally.
“We try to encourage people to register to vote and publicize the election,” Jackson said. “We try to publicize the ballots so people can be aware of what’s going on with the election.”
Jackson said having early voting could help continue the high turnout in future elections, but that was addressed in the last legislative session and it would require more people to work and cost more money. She did say everyone had the opportunity to vote absentee.
“We didn’t turn anybody away for absentee voting,” Jackson said. “Most people that came and absentee voted were either 65 years of age and older, they had a temporary disability and a lot of college students. A lot of people were going to be out of the county Election Day and I, personally, as circuit clerk, I voted three people that tested positive at their vehicle. That was a courtesy curbside that I did, so we didn’t turn anybody away.”
Races within Coahoma County also helped spark the large voter turnout.
Challenger Johnnie Moore defeated incumbent Edward Kinard for the District 5 seat on the Coahoma County School board 314 (62.18 percent) to 189 (37.43 percent).
Moore is a 1975 Coahoma County High School graduate and his wife Yvonne Moore is a 1976 CCHS graduate. Their son, Derrick Moore, is the CCHS head basketball coach and their other son, Daryl Moore, is an assistant basketball coach.
“It’s some gratification,” Moore said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in the local school system. There’s a shortage of certified teachers statewide and nationwide.”
“But when you talk to parents and retirees and politicians that have got children in our schools, they say some of the same stuff that’s coming up about the way young people are being treated.”
Moore said it is important to try and change things so Coahoma County does not continue to decline in population and lose funding for students,
“We’ve really got to start investing back in our community,” Moore said. “I appreciate all the people that voiced their opinion about calling me and asking me if I would run in this election.”
Rodrick Monroe was uncontested for the Coahoma County School Board seat in District 1.
Andrew Thompson Jr. (D), also the former Sheriff for 21 years, won his third term representing District 2 on the Coahoma County Election Commission defeating challenger Flo L. Shackelford (D) 1,123 (75.02 percent) to 373 (24.92 percent).
Thompson acknowledged the election was different with COVID-19, but felt it did not impact the voter turnout.
“I just try to run a good clean election and the voters believed in me,” Thompson said.
District 3 was the other contested Coahoma County Election Commission race as Mary Smith (D) defeated Billy R. Martin (D) 836 (66.83 percent) to 414 (33.09 percent).
JoAnn Gates, the lone local Republican on this year’s ballot was unopposed for the District 1 Election Commission seat. Roosevelt Noah Sr. (D) in District 4, and Virginia T. Burchfield (R) in District 5 were also unopposed.
Gates acknowledged most local candidates ran as Democrats, but as a Republican, she did not see any problems in the elections.
“Everything went well at all the polling places,” Gates said. “Everybody did their jobs as far as social distancing.”
Coahoma County Democratic Party Chair Ray Sykes said the election commissioners were the most important races, but most of the voters came out for the Presidential and US Senate elections.
“You would have thought from COVID, people wouldn’t have turned out, but they did,” Sykes said. “We were concerned early on, but I would think most of our absentees were the people who normally vote in the morning, so it was slow. Then all of the sudden I said, ‘If they don’t have lines at the polls, we got a problem.’ I went out and checked the polls. The lines were building up everywhere, so I knew we were going to top the 2016 election.”
Sykes believes the momentum will carry into future elections.
“We had a lot of young kids involved this time,” Sykes said. “They did online videos. I kept them involved through the whole process. I knew older people what they normally do so we were trying to energize the young folks, talk with them and have a meeting with them. They shared the number for people to call for a ride. We had a great response to that. We never had a response like we had for people getting a free ride.”
A total of 5,718 voters (82.75 percent) in Coahoma County supported House Bill 1796 for a new state flag, while 1,192 (17.25 percent) opposed.
A total of 5,712 voters (86.78 percent) in Coahoma County supported House Concurrent Resolution No. 47 that requires the governor to be elected by the majority of the people and not electoral votes. A total of 870 voters (13.22 percent) opposed.
Coahoma County residents also supported allowing medical marijuana by a vote of 4,817 (77.97 percent) to 1,361 (22.03 percent). A total of 4,083 voters (76.13 percent) who favored medical marijuana supported Initiative 65, while 1,280 voters (23.87 percent) supported Alternative 65A.
Josiah D. Coleman earned 2,859 votes (50.46 percent) in Coahoma County for the state Supreme Court District 3 (Northern) seat, while Percy L. Lynchard earned 2,791 votes (49.26 percent).