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Lincoln Co. rejects new flag

By an almost 3-1 margin, Lincoln County voters went to the pollsTuesday to cast their ballots in support of retaining the 1894 flagas the official state banner.

The flag with the Confederate emblem in the upper left cornergarnered 8,331 votes, or 74.4 percent, while a proposed new flagdesign received 2,870 votes, or 25.6 percent. The new flag proposalfeatured 20 stars on a blue field to symbolize Mississippi’sadmission as the 20th state.

Brookhaven’s Chuck Bond, historian for the Mississippi Divisionof the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he was very happy withthe results, both locally and statewide.

“I’m very proud of Lincoln County,” Bond said as he watchedelection returns with fellow flag supporters last night inLaurel.

Bond expressed some disappointment in some opposition adsleading up to the election. Bond said the ads were “confusing” overwhat a new flag approval would mean regarding Confederate monumentsand other symbols.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Bond said.

Had the new flag been approved, the current flag would have beengranted historic status and a two-thirds vote of the statelegislature would have been required on matters regardingConfederate monument and related actions.

Statewide, the vote to keep the current flag was around 65percent to 35 percent. Supporters of the new flag, who contendedthe Confederate symbol on the current banner is a reminder ofslavery and oppression, said they will continue to seek achange.

Bond offered no predictions for the future.

“Hopefully, this can be put behind us, improve everyone’srelations, put our differences aside and make Mississippi NumberOne instead of Number 50,” Bond said.

Bond also said he hoped there would be no lingering animosityfollowing the vote.

“I promise you, there is none on this side,” Bond said.

The 11,295 votes cast Tuesday represented about a 47 percentturnout among Lincoln County’s almost 24,000 voters. The actualvoter total was about the same as the gubernatorial election in1999, although the percentage was higher that year because thecounty had only around 22,000 voters then.

County officials earlier had predicted a good turnout — in the30-40 percent range — for yesterday’s election

“I think the turnout was real good,” said District 1 ElectionCommissioner John Hightower, chairman of the electioncommission.

Hightower indicated there were few surprises in the electionother than the higher-than-expected turnout.

“I expected it be high in Districts 4 and 5,” he said lastnight. “I think they showed more interest. They were voting earlythis morning.”

During voting Tuesday afternoon, poll workers offered mixedreviews of turnout.

“It’s kind of slim today,” said Government Complex poll managerCurtis Forrest, where 151 people had voted by around 3 p.m. “Ifigured it kind of be a little more.”

The precinct finished the day with 297 ballots cast. They wereoverwhelming for the new flag, 286-11.

The High School precinct saw 283 ballots, with 259 of those forthe new flag.

“It’s better than I expected,” said Poll Manager Dorothy Watkinsat the precinct where 145 had voted by around 3:15 p.m.

Members of the young black men’s group Alpha Beautillion werestationed at several precincts Tuesday to pass out flyersencouraging people to support the new flag.

“They feel strongly about changing the flag,” said MauriceBrown, who passed out flyers at the Alexander precinct.

Other precincts reported heavier turnouts.

Halbert Heights, the county’s largest precinct, had 524 voterssupport the current flag and 197 for the new flag. At Lipsey,another precinct with more than 1,000 registered voters, 473 voterswent with the current flag and 158 were for the new flag.

“If we could get 700-750, we’d have a pretty good turnout,” saidColeman Lea, poll manager, earlier Tuesday.

During counting Tuesday night, some ballots were spoiled becausethey either were not marked or there was no way to tell the voter’sintent, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Case Watkins. Someothers, she said, included messages written on the ballots with novotes cast.

“None of them that I saw were racial,” Watkins said about themessages, adding that a few included comments directed at variouspeople.