Next Circuit Clerk to be decided in Tuesday election

Published 12:35 pm Saturday, November 4, 2023

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NATCHEZ —Two women on the ballot Tuesday both claim to be the best candidates for Adams County Circuit Clerk.

Eva Givens

Incumbent Eva Givens said she has the experience that’s necessary to effectively do the job.

“January would make 14 years that I have worked in the Circuit Clerk’s Office,” she said. “I’ve been the Deputy Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk. I have been working hard for the past 13 years and will continue to work hard if I’m reelected. I feel some do not know what all the Circuit Clerk’s office does. … It’s a whole lot and it’s not easy. You have to have the experience and know the job.”

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However, Givens’ opponent Daye Dearing said she is “more than qualified” and could do the job better.

Daye Dearing

“I feel like I’m the best candidate for the job,” Dearing said. “Public service is very important to me and it’s more than just a job. Public service is a calling. You have to want to serve the public and work with people. We should be held to a higher standard as a result of being a public servant. … I feel that it’s important and that I can do a better job or I wouldn’t be running for this position.”

Dearing said she wrote a 1996 report for a Stennis Institute of Government study that at the time revealed huge flaws in Mississippi’s election data and initiated the creation of the statewide election management system.

“The study found that there were more registered voters in many counties than there were people of voting age living in those counties,” she said.

Dearing currently works as the Director of the Women’s Business Center at Alcorn State University, where she administers a $750,000 grant from the United States Small Business Administration to assist aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with a focus on women business owners in particular. It’s a position that she would leave to be a full-time circuit clerk if she were elected, Dearing said.

“I would be a working circuit clerk in the office every day,” she said. “It’s more than just a job because you’re doing this for the people of Adams County and representing them in that position. I want to do that well and be a good circuit clerk. I don’t want to disappoint anybody.”

Both candidates express knowledge of the position and what it entails such as issuing marriage licenses and passports; summoning a panel of jurors for court; keeping and posting the record of indictments and civil, criminal, and youth court cases; registering voters; and reporting election results.

Dearing said she wants to take the elections responsibility a step further by doing more to encourage more people to vote.

“Voting is the crux of our democracy and our civilization,” she said. “I want to get people more engaged in voting. It’s a crying shame that only a quarter to a third of the registered voters in the county are going to vote. I want to start engaging elementary, junior high and high school students and adults and get them excited about voting.”

Dearing said she is particularly passionate about the election process and wants to be in the position to ensure that it is done correctly.

“I care very much particularly about the elections responsibility because I feel strongly about voting, the right to vote the voting process and that it be done correctly and error-free,” she said. “I would want to make certain that no mistakes are made by personnel in the circuit clerk’s office where absentee voting is concerned, mistakes that would cause the absentee ballots to be disqualified and not be counted. That is happening and I’ve seen it happen.”

However, Givens said that to her knowledge no errors have been made by her staff that would cause any person’s vote to not be counted.

“Everyone in here is trained,” she said. “We (processed) over 3,000 absentees during COVID and almost all of them got accepted. If we can handle all of that during COVID, we can handle anything.”

Givens said her department is already on the state’s list for being added to the Mississippi Electronic Courts system next year, which would make filing records go easier and faster.

“That will bring a lot to my office,” she said. “We wouldn’t have to have all of these filing cabinets and attorneys wouldn’t have to file pieces of paper when they can do it online. I’ve been on the list since 2020, but the legislature passed a bill in July 2021 that all circuit clerk’s offices in the state had to be on that system. COVID slowed the process down.”

Among the changes Dearing said she would bring to the department if she were elected would be to modernize the Circuit Clerk’s webpage and make it more user-friendly with more information available to the public, such as information for jury duty, election information and results, the list of precincts and absentee or affidavit ballot tracking.

“You’re the chief elections officer. You should be providing information to the voters,” Dearing said of the Circuit Clerk. “I think we deserve better. I would serve with honesty, integrity and commitment because it’s important to me.”

However, Givens said the county IT director has just updated the county website in recent months, which now includes a link to the Secretary of State’s “Y’all Vote” page with election information. She also said her office makes getting jury instructions, locating records and other information easy for the public.

“(The way we summon jurors) has worked since Eddie Walker was the clerk and has been very successful with no complaints,” she said. “You have to be a subscriber to the Delta system to go in and look at the public records, but I have a computer in the office that anyone can use to go in and look at them. Everything is up to date. You cannot hold any documents that are filed. When they come in, it’s immediately filed. That’s true as far as voting as well. You cannot just hold on to the absentee ballots and they’re not left out. Everything is locked in the safe, then on election day the resolution board comes and everything is counted.”