Commission, Vines argue over mail

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Circuit Clerk M.L. &uot;Binkey&uot; Vines has vehemently denied that his office tampered with mail for the Election Commissioner’s Office.

&uot;We’re just trying to better serve the people,&uot; Vines said.

The commission recently sent out postcards to voters in an attempt to verify their residences.

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In a recent letter to Vines &045; copies of which were sent this week to local media &045; election commissioners charge that Vines’ office had student workers copy and make notations on cards that had been returned.

At that time, the Election Commission’s mail came through the Circuit Clerk’s Office but was placed in a separate box for pickup by commissioners, said Commissioner Larry Gardner.

&uot;In handling our mail, you have contaminated the whole process of verifying the voter’s residence,&uot; Gardner said in his letter. &uot;That means you have tampered with our mail.&uot;

Vines said personnel with his office &045; &uot;we’re the official registrar of Adams County,&uot; he noted &045; copy information on one side of the postcard and keep the copies on file.

That’s so that if voters call with questions about their registration, personnel can more easily assist them, Vines said.

Such copying does not qualify as mail tampering &uot;because it’s a postcard &045; anyone can read them,&uot; said Deputy Circuit Clerk Marjorie Alexander.

She did say that one personal letter sent to a commissioner was inadvertently opened, but that is was not read and was forwarded to the commissioners’ office.

Although postal inspectors in Jackson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, local Postmaster Bill Farrior said tampering usually involves opening an envelope. &uot;Anyone can pick up a postcard and read it,&uot; Farrior said.

Reese Partridge with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division &uot;said we did nothing wrong,&uot; Alexander said.

Partridge could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Secretary of State’s spokesman David Blount said the question was a first for him.

&uot;As far as I’m aware, nothing in state election law that would cover that specific question,&uot; Blount said. &uot;But we encourage the officials in Adams County to work together to efficiently serve the voters who are attempting to register.&uot;

Gardner said he and the other commissioners will decide what action to take regarding the mail situation. Meanwhile, he said, &uot;we now have another box&uot; to receive mail.

&uot;We stand on our record,&uot; Vines said, calling the letter &uot;a political ploy.&uot;