Absentee voting start uncertain, officials say

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 13, 2007

Officials say they are unsure when the absentee voting periodfor the Aug. 28 party primaries may open.

“We have no idea,” said Lawrence County Circuit Clerk CindyStokes. “It’s all up to the state. We’re waiting on the state tocertify (the Aug. 7) election.”

Absentee voting for runoffs is always a rush affair, she said.Runoffs are scheduled three weeks after the election and thatleaves little time to certify the votes and print the ballots.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The deadline for absentee votes is Aug. 25 at noon. Mail-invotes will be accepted until 5 p.m. Aug. 27, but must carry an Aug.25 postmark, Stokes said.

The deadline is firm, but circuit clerks said when they canbegin collecting them remains a mystery.

Lincoln County Deputy Circuit Clerk Vanessa Collins said shehopes the county is able to open absentee voting by the end of theweek, but added she was not optimistic about the possibility. Oncethe state certifies the election, it still has to design thespecific ballots for each of Mississippi’s 82 counties and sendthem to the circuit clerks.

Stokes said she also doubted that the period would open thisweek.

However, both offices said if they received the ballots byFriday they would be open Saturday to accept absentee ballots. TheLincoln County office would open from 9 a.m. to noon while theLawrence County office would open at 8 a.m. with the same noonclosing.

Also, both offices are planning to be open Saturday, Aug. 25,with the same time period, the clerks said.

The Republican race for House District 92 further confuses theissue, but would have little effect on determining the availabilityof Democratic ballots.

Although Republican candidate Paul Barnett stopped short ofrequesting a recount on the election, he has expressed a desire toreview the ballots. He sent certified letters to the other twocandidates Friday notifying them he intended to review theballots.

Barnett said this morning Lincoln County Republican PartyChairman Chuck Nelms and candidates Becky Currie and Gene Buckleswould receive the notices in the mail today. The law requirescandidates have three days notice before a review.

“It will probably be Thursday at the earliest before we can dothe inspections because of the required notice,” he said. “Thisisn’t an accusation or anything. It’s just an inspection because ofthe math. Statistically, the margin is so slim at 0.8 percent I oweit to my supporters and the voting community to ensureaccuracy.”

Currie, the apparent winner, led the three-candidate field with523 votes, or 50.8 percent, while Barnett received 457 votes, or 44percent. Buckles was third with 49 votes.

Barnett said a total of 1,030 votes were cast in the race. Aloss of eight of those votes would drop Currie below the 50 percentplus one vote required to win an election without a runoff.

“I’m not looking for additional votes,” he said. “I’m looking atthe accuracy of those that were cast. Eight votes cast for Bucklesor Barnett would mean a runoff. It’s in the realm of possibilityand I feel it’s warranted, but it’s not just me. Many people havecome forward and said I needed to have this done.”

Nelms said this morning that Barnett had not been in touch withhim about making the ballots available.

“I’ve not been requested to do that,” he said. “There’s been nocorrespondence from him to me.”

Nelms said he would, however, comply with the request should hereceive it today.

“We’ll make all the absentee and affidavit ballots, which arelocked up, available to him if he requests it,” he said.

The House District 92 race is the only contest that would appearon the Republican ballot Aug. 28 should Barnett’s review force arunoff.