Yard sign among election highlights

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election officials said Tuesday’s general election occurredwithout any major problems in Lincoln County, though there were afew instances of confusion and a couple of strange occurrences.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said the fewproblems that were reported around the county’s 32 precincts – suchas voters showing up to the wrong precincts and the occasionalvoting machine malfunction – were minor and expected.

What wasn’t expected, however, was the eye-catcher across thestreet from the AJHS Precinct – a sign that said, “Vote DemocratTues. Nov. 4 Barack Obama – black man running and not from thepolice.”

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Charles Kennedy placed the sign in his front yard, which – at aglance – appeared to be within 150 feet of the polling place andpossibly in violation of state law. But the Attorney General’soffice said since the sign was on private property, the most thatcould be done would be to ask Kennedy to remove his sign.

The office’s representative said the sign would mean little inthe national race, but had it referred to a local candidate, itcould have provided grounds for contestation of the results.

Kennedy, who said he had lived on the property for 50 years,said several people had stopped, gawked and photographed the signthroughout the day, with some even demanding he take it down. Hesaid the sign was just a strong message to vote for Obama and notintended to attack anyone or any race.

“It’s just like that right there,” he said, pointing to anofficial Obama/Biden sign down the street. “It’s just a pro-Obamakind of thing. I think he’s going to win if he don’t let the policecatch him.”

Kennedy said he copied the slogan from a T-shirt.

Some voting confusion – easily sorted out by Watkins and herpoll workers – occurred at the Alexander Precinct, where localresident Jeanette Newton spent much of the day ferrying voters inand, by request, assisting them at the voting machines.

Poll workers there said Newton became aggravated when they triedto question her about her many trips to the voting machine with thedifferent voters she brought in. Concerned citizens eventually gotinvolved, leading to Watkins receiving a phone call from theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Watkins said the NAACP said a complaint had been lodged thatpoll workers were not allowing Newton to assist the voters shebrought in. Alexander poll workers said they did not try to blockNewton from the voting machines.

“She can legally assist people, but they have to ask for it,”Watkins said of Newton.

Several of Newton’s voters were not on the Alexander poll bookand at least one was not registered to vote in the county. Thelegitimate voters she brought in did ask for her assistance.

Newton declined to comment, saying only, “I’ve been doing this along time – I know what I’m doing.”

Apparently, the most voting confusion that occurred Tuesday wasat the Enterprise Precinct, where four voting districtsintersect.

Poll Manager Jim Rudder said a handful of his voters who live onthe outskirts of Bogue Chitto were caught off-guard when they werenot allowed to vote in the Educational District 3 school board race- the position that represents Bogue Chitto Attendance Center.

“We have a divided ballot,” Rudder said. “We have EducationalDistrict 3 for the Bogue Chitto area, and some of our district runsthrough there. There are some people who felt they should have hadthat choice who live closer to Bogue Chitto.”

Rudder said the many district intersections in the Enterprisevoting area make the election process “not real clear” for voters.But the poll workers were briefed on the matter before theelection, he said, and most of the confusion was sorted out with acall to the circuit clerk’s office.

Overall, election officials were pleased with how the dayprogressed.

“Everyone commented on how well it went,” Watkins said, citingpoll workers’ comments on the performance of the voting machinesand the turnout of the voters.

According to voter rolls and election totals, the 16,417 ballotscast in Tuesday’s election represented about 62.9 percent ofLincoln County’s 26,076 registered voters.

There were some expected instances of people showing up at theincorrect precincts.

In those cases, election officials said, poll workers are tocall the circuit clerk’s office to see if the person is registeredin the precinct. If they are registered elsewhere, the voter isdirected to correct precinct.

A citizen may vote an affidavit ballot if there is a questionabout their registration in a particular precinct.

Watkins indicated voters showing up at the wrong precincts wasnot unusual.

“We have that at all the precincts,” she said. “That’s ournumber one thing on Election Day: People going to the wrongprecinct.”

Watkins said reasons for that may be people changing addressesand not re-registering or being moved to the inactive voter list ifthey do not vote in three elections. When questioned about anincident involving Forrestry and Fair River precincts earlier inthe day, she said there had been no redistricting to cause anyoneto have moved between the two precincts.

Other election officials reported relatively few problems andstrong turnout.

Poll worker Bonita Bullock, who managed the Halbert Heightsprecinct at Central Fire Station, agreed with Watkins that theturnout was the largest in recent history because of the interestin the presidential election.

“Four years ago it was like this,” she said. “Usually everypresidential election it’s like this. People understand theimportance of electing a new president.”

The Vaughan precinct, which Kelly Smith said during mostelections doesn’t even have 250 sign the rolls all day, had 200 oftheir 528 registered voters come in by 11:30 a.m.

“They were lined up when we first opened up and it didn’t slowup for 40 minutes,” said Kelly Smith. “And it’s been steady all daylong.”