Both sides getting ready for flag vote

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Interest in an upcoming election on the state flag is runninghigh and people on both sides of the issue are gearing up campaignsto sway the issue in their favor.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Case Watkins has seenevidence of flag election interest in voter registrationtotals.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in and register,” Watkins said.”It’s definitely above normal.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Watkins estimated there had been at least two or three newregistrants a day for the last month. The circuit clerkacknowledged that some of the new voters were because of upcomingcity elections, but she said a number had commented that theywanted to make sure they are eligible to vote in the April 17election on the flag.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in it,” Watkins said.

The last day to register to be eligible to vote in the flagelection is Friday at 5 p.m., Watkins said.

Some clerks’ offices in the state are staying open until noonSaturday. However, Watkins said that is optional and surroundingcounties’ clerks’ offices are not staying open, and hers was notgoing to either.

Absentee voting is under way and records indicated 31 people hadvoted absentee as of Tuesday afternoon. Watkins said citizens whoknow they will be out of town on April 17 may come into her officeand vote now.

Watkins said her office will be open until noon on Saturdays,April 7 and April 14, for absentee voting. April 14 is the last dayto vote absentee in the clerk’s office in the flag election.

Getting out the vote will be the goal of proponents on bothsides of the flag issue.

About 35 people, wearing state flag lapel stickers, attended aSons of Confederate Veterans-sponsored Support the Flag meeting atthe Veterans of Foreign Wars hall Tuesday night. A meeting of thoselooking to change the state flag is scheduled for March 30 at theVFW hall, a hall spokesman said.

Chuck Bond, SCV district coordinator, said there areapproximately 55,000 registered voters in Lincoln, Lawrence andCopiah counties. He urged flag supporters in those counties, aswell as in Franklin, to join an effort to get out the vote.

“We’re going to really work these counties, especially Lincoln,”Bond said.

A grass roots effort to get flag supporters to the polls isforming.

“Our strategy is starting to come out,” Bond said, mentioningsimilar meetings being held around the state to garner support forthe flag.

Bumper stickers with slogans such as “Save Our Flag” and “KeepThe Flag, Change The Heart” were passed out at Tuesday’s meeting.Business cards and yard signs promoting the flag election were alsoavailable.

A media blitz, including radio, television and newspaperadvertising, during the last two weeks leading up to the electionis planned. Bond said the advertising will the demographics-basedso the message is heard by those in favor of keeping the flag.

Bond did not expect the campaign to change anyone’s mind, but hewas optimistic there was enough flag support to win theelection.

“All we can do is get our people out to vote,” Bond said. “Wecan win it if we get the vote out.”

Bond urged ethical activities and fair play as flag supportersseek to preserve the symbol of Confederate heritage.

“Everything we’re going to do is by the book and above board,”Bond said.

Bond said the Confederate organization is normally non-politicaluntil it was “forced” into the political realm when discussion ofchanging the flag surfaced. He said the canton corner of the flag,with its 13 stars, recognizes the 13 original colonies and was asymbol under which their ancestors fought.

“We have got to honor that,” Bond said.

Some in Tuesday’s audience doubted published reports on surveysshowing flag support having a lead. Roy Wooten, of the SCV, saidthat was to develop an impression that the flag vote outcome wasassured and flag supporters did not need to vote.

“We don’t want to fall for that,” Wooten said.