Counting continues into night

Published 12:25 am Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WOODVILLE — After waiting nearly a year to redo the Wilkinson County election, the Wilkinson County Democratic Executive Committee didn’t want to wait one more day for results. So they worked into the night and early morning.

It took the two special masters appointed to oversee the election an hour and a half after polls closed to make it back to the courthouse.

The ballot boxes and memory cards for the electronic voting machines began pouring into the courtroom two hours after the polls closed and then the counting began.

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Roughly 20 members of the Democratic Executive Committee sat in the front of the courtroom to count the paper ballots, while the rest sat in the audience looking on.

Ann Greer, co-chair of the executive committee, said her, co-chair Elmo Ross and the two special masters, former Judges Barry Gibbs and Barry Ford chose those certain members.

When Greer stood before the courtroom and called the names of those chosen, the bulk of which were white, black committee members in the audience were vocal in wondering why so few black members had been chosen.

As the committee members sorted through the paper ballots, the massive flurry of arms surrounding the box left committee members Tobie and Sallye Morris wondering why so many people were chosen to count the ballots.

“There are too many people helping,” Tobie Morris said as his wife nodded in agreement.

Greer said there were so many people helping because it was necessary.

“There are so many different jobs,” she said.

This includes packing up the election supplies, counting the ballots, checking seals and more, she said.

When the first box was opened, there was confusion over a missing paper ballot, causing a stir in the audience.

“They got it settled,” Greer said, however.

Greer said she hoped everything in the boxes would be processed by the end of the evening.

“We’re not real sure yet,” she said.

It was a possibility though, Greer said.

“The way we’re processing it, we may be,” she said. “We’re taking care of everything at the same time.”

This means counting all the types of paper ballots — absentee, affidavit and curbside.

Greer said if the clock struck 2 a.m. and the committee isn’t done yet, that’s when the counting will be cut off until the next day.

Tobie Morris said he wasn’t going to stay all night, but Sallye Morris was in for the long haul.

“I promised them I would stay to the end and help out if they need me,” she said.

Greer said while all the ballots may be tallied, the verification process would not be complete Tuesday night.

As for waiting until today to complete the process all at once instead of potentially doing it in pieces, Greer said waiting was just not an option.

“We’ve been waiting a year,” she said.

The initial Democratic primary election took place more than 10 months ago, but three races were contested.

Candidates Lynn Tolliver Delaney, Jessie Stewart and Kirk Smith challenged election results for circuit clerk, sheriff and district two supervisor, respectively.

They were leading in the polls once the electronic votes were tallied, but the paper ballots swung the vote in favor of Incumbent Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen, Sheriff Reginald “Pip” Jackson and District Two Supervisor Richard Hollins.

Delaney, Stewart and Smith brought allegations of fraud in the paper ballots resulting in 17 members of the Democratic Executive Committee to throw out all paper ballots.

After this, election results swung back to Delaney, Stewart and Smith.

Allen, Jackson and Hollins filed a contest with the Mississippi Supreme Court, challenging the committee’s decision.

In late February, it was decided by Judge Jim Persons, who was residing over the contest, that the election should take place again.