Office to open for absentee voting

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WOODVILLE — Two special masters may be overseeing the specially called election for Wilkinson County, but in practical terms little is different for the voter.

Absentee voting is currently under way for the June 24 primary, and the Wilkinson County Circuit Clerk’s office will be open from 8 a.m. until noon on June 14 and 21 to allow for absentee voting on Saturdays.

The way in which the clerk’s office verifies the voter’s name, precinct and absentee application is the same, Deputy Clerk Paulette Wilkerson said.

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“We have the same procedure, the same envelopes and everything,” Wilkerson said.

On the ballot are candidates for circuit clerk, sheriff and supervisor for District 2.

In the circuit clerk’s race, incumbent Mon Cree Allen will take on candidate Lynn Tolliver Delaney.

For sheriff, incumbent Reginald L. “Pip” Jackson faces challenger Jessie W. Stewart.

In the race for District 2 supervisor, incumbent Richard Hollins will see a challenge by former supervisor Kirk Smith.

The special election, ordered by Judge Jim Persons in late February, is to settle the highly disputed August, 2007 Wilkinson County Democratic primary elections.

In early September, 2007, 17 of the 32 members of the Wilkinson County Democratic Executive Committee voted to throw out all of the absentee, affidavit and curbside ballots from the election after they heard allegations of widespread fraud in the paper ballots.

That decision reversed the results of the election, changing wins for Allen, Hollins and Jackson to wins for Delaney, Smith and Stewart.

The decision was made without the examination of any ballots, but the members who voted to toss the ballots alleged they did not examine the ballots because they were not allowed access to them.

The three incumbents challenged that decision, and after months of hearings, Persons decided he could not consider the paper ballots because it could not be determined who had custody of the ballots between the August election and when the trial began in November.

In his order for a new election, Persons made a provision that two neutral parties, former Circuit Court Judges Barry Ford and Robert Gibbs, conduct the election.

Under normal circumstances, the circuit clerk conducts elections.

The election was originally set for April 15, but was moved back to its current date when three Wilkinson County residents filed a lawsuit because voters were not given 60 days notice prior to the election, as Mississippi law requires.

A challenge to the special master setup was filed in federal court, but was withdrawn before it could be heard.

A special general election will be July 22, in which independent Calvin Gaines will challenge the winner of the Democratic primary for sheriff, and independent Donna Smith will challenge the primary’s winner for circuit clerk.