Gov’t officials testify

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

VIDALIA — The trial to determine the fate of the contested sheriff’s election continued Tuesday, with attorneys for both sides questioning how long it would take to verify that all of Concordia Parish’s registered voters are qualified to vote.

Monterey resident Glenn Lipsey filed the contest after he narrowly lost the election to Sheriff Randy Maxwell on Oct. 20.

Testimony at Tuesday’s proceedings included government officials such as Registrar of Voters Golda Ensminger and Tax Assessor Monelle Moseley.

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Moseley’s testimony was regarding homestead exemptions, and Lipsey’s attorneys entered the tax records of several individuals into evidence to try to prove that they claim homestead exemption outside of Concordia Parish.

If an individual claims homestead exemption outside of the parish where they cast their votes, they are not qualified to vote in that parish.

“When you claim homestead exemption, you are claiming that that property is your bona fide home,” Moseley said.

Concordia Communications District 911 Director Obye Joe Simmons also testified that in one instance, when asked to verify an address, she had driven by where the address was supposedly located only to find it did not exist.

For someone to get utilities to their property, they must have a valid 911 address for that address, Simmons said.

When Lipsey’s attorney Brady King asked Simmons about a particular address — 133 Miranda Drive — she said it was not a valid address because Miranda Drive ends at 132.

Maxwell’s attorney Tom Jones offered a possible alternative scenario.

“Yesterday we had a gentleman testify he had set up a mailbox at a separate address because he didn’t want his mail to get mixed up,” Jones said. “Would it be possible for someone to erect a mailbox on a property like that that is not in the proper 911 system?”

It is possible, Simmons said, but the address would not be recognized as a legitimate 911 address.

When Ensminger testified, Lipsey’s attorney Sherri Morris questioned her if it was possible for someone to check the entire voting roster for the parish for unqualified voters before an election.

Ensminger said she would not be able to do so during that time.

During cross-examination, Maxwell’s attorney asked her if it was possible for someone to do the same thing in the three weeks following the election, Ensminger replied it was likely not because it “is the same amount of time.”

And while Ensminger said the registrar’s office would check to see if an address was valid if it appeared to be outside of the range of assigned 911 address numbers on a given area, it is not the practice of the registrar’s office to check if the address falls within the range.

Questioned by Jones how long it might take to verify the addresses and other factors that might disqualify them for all of the voters on Concordia Parish’s rosters, Ensminger said she could not hazard an estimate.

“I have never done it before,” she said.

Tuesday’s proceedings also included more testimony from Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office employees, in which they admitted to using addresses other than their own to register to vote in the parish.

One of the employees, Sgt. Keith Boothe, of Jonesville, said he moved to Concordia Parish in 1996 and registered to vote there, but never changed his registration after moving.

Another, Gloria Fleming, of Natchez, said she used a relative’s address so she could have a mailing address in the parish because it was a requirement to work for the sheriff’s office.

“I had to register to vote pretty much to maintain my job,” she said.

During testimony Monday, Rivers Correctional Facility Assistant Warden Pat Smith read from an application for employment at the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office that stated applicants would need to bring their birth certificate, a current driver’s license, social security identification and voter registration card, among other things.

The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office policy manual also requires those who hold most positions in the office reside in Concordia Parish.

Boothe said during testimony he was “not sure” about being required to vote in Concordia Parish, but that he had never been instructed to do so.

The case will resume Friday.