Committee working to set date for vote hearing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2000

The municipal Democratic Executive Committee has not yet set a date for a hearing on Natchez Alderman George Harden’s protest of votes in the May 2 primary.

Harden lost the Ward 2 election to James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray by 107 votes. Harden said Monday he is contesting the results because he believes &uot;a lot of fraud&uot; took place during the election.

Democratic Executive Committee Secretary Beverly Merrill said the committee is trying to set a date and time for a hearing on the protest.

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According to election rules from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, it is the duty of the party executive committee to hold a hearing on any contest,

&uot;Notice of the contest shall be served five calendar days before the meeting,&uot; the regulations state.

Harden’s protest claims that at least 85 absentee ballots were improperly cast by Ward 2 voters because the ballots were not attached with an envelope showing the ballot application was properly mailed to the city clerk’s office.

Harden also said he believes 72 people who voted in the election were not actual residents of Ward 2.

But one Ward 2 voter, Jarita Fisher, said she believes her absentee ballot was cast correctly.

Fisher attends Florida A&M University during the school year, but her permanent address is at 105 S. Bluebird Drive. Fisher said she has voted absentee several times.

&uot;I think I know how to fill out the envelope by now,&uot; she said.

Fisher said she believes if the Ward 2 votes are thrown out and a new election held, Harden will lose votes because he protested the election.

&uot;He may have intimidated and offended a lot of people,&uot; she said. &uot;We need some younger people in (office). It’s not old Natchez anymore; it’s a new Natchez.&uot;

While Harden has made his decision on protesting the close election between him and Gray, Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said Tuesday he has not decided whether he will protest the results of the May 16 primary runoff between him and F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

Brown has alleged some election misconduct at two of the polling places that day. At one, Brown said signs supportive of Smith and against Brown were up while people were voting. At another, Brown said a bailiff who had signed a ticket supporting Smith was working. He was later removed from his duties.

&uot;We’re still waiting on the Justice Department,&uot; Brown said. &uot;(City Clerk Frances) Trosclair and the election commission are still waiting to see the findings they have.&uot;

Brown said the Justice Department is interested in the alleged interference at the United Steelworkers of America Union Hall on Gayosa Avenue, the Ward 4 polling place.

Brown said he does not know whether the information Harden claims he has uncovered will affect the outcome of the mayoral election.

&uot;His results are based on the first primary,&uot; Brown said. &uot;I don’t know what impact that will have. I’m sure if we were to inspect the ballots we would like to have the information he has.&uot;