Election commission readies for big day

Published 11:41 pm Monday, August 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — Plastic bins filled with election supplies took up much of the election commissioners’ office Monday.

Some of the commissioners grabbed a bite to eat while they worked.

Between French fries, Commissioner Evelyn Smith explained what the day before Election Day meant for her office.

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“We’re delivering voting machines — 119 of them — to the precincts,” Smith said. “We’re also packing packets with encoders, access codes and memory cards.”

Most of the jobs involved organizing a potentially chaotic primary election, with nearly 50 candidates just in the county.

Polls open at 7 a.m. today and close at 7 p.m.

The commission also had responsibilities about which others might not think.

“We’re calling all the phones at the precincts and making sure the phones work,” Election Commissioner Mitch Ballard said.

Across the hall in the circuit clerk’s office, absentee ballots were stacked on the counter.

The office received roughly 1,200 absentee ballots before Saturday’s deadline, an office employee said.

While voter turnout could be anyone’s guess, Smith said she looked for an enthusiastic crowd today.

“If the calls we’re getting about where to vote are any indicator, we should have a heavy turnout,” she said.

Election Commissioner Larry Gardner has emphasized the importance of voting at one’s designated precinct. If a voter casts his ballot at the wrong polls, it won’t count, he said.

Since Mississippi law doesn’t require residents to register as with one party or another, voters can choose either the Democratic or Republican ballot at today’s primaries. And while there are several Republicans in some state races, the county races are heavily Democratic. In fact, some races are made up exclusively of Democratic candidates.

For information, call the circuit clerk’s office at 601-446-6326 or the election commission at 601-445-7905.