Voter interest high as election nears

Published 9:00 pm Sunday, November 4, 2012

A long-anticipated national election has finally drawn imminent, and local county officials are starting to feel the foreshocks.

     “It’s crazy,” said interim Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Sherry Jordan Friday afternoon, even as a final surge of absentee voting was pushing the total of ballots cast or mailed out in the county above 1,700.

     With a deadline of yesterday to absentee vote, Lincoln County residents kept the circuit clerk’s office packed ahead of the weekend.

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     “It pretty much has been going on all week, but today it’s really wild,” Jordan said Friday.

     Jordan’s also been working to advise voters planning to physically visit the polls Tuesday of several changes they need to be aware of.

     At the precinct based at Enterprise Attendance Center, votes will be cast in the gymnasium rather than the library, due to construction. At the Bogue Chitto Attendance Center precinct, voting will take place in the library rather than the gymnasium.

     Voters may also note some adjustments in the Lincoln County School Board race.

     Due to redistricting, what was previously the far northwestern corner of the school board’s District One is now in District Three. Voters living in that area accustomed to voting for District One in school board races will see no school board races on this year’s ballot, because the District Three seat is not up for election this year.

     Jordan has also advised voters they won’t need to show identification at the polls Tuesday. A state law requiring voter ID has not yet been approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

     “I think everyone has about gotten the message,” Jordan said.

     The nationwide race for president between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be Tuesday’s headline event. However, in Lincoln County, a number of local races have garnered some attention, including a special election for circuit clerk that has attracted a full slate of candidates.

     Eight are vying to be selected by voters as the next circuit clerk of Lincoln County. The winner will fill the remaining three years of the term won by previous office-holder Terry Lynn Watkins before her resignation earlier this year.

     The eight candidates on the ballot are Dustin R. Bairfield, Josh Davis, Heather White Martin, Terry Reid, Janie Wallace Sisco, L. Mike Smith, Paula Thames Smith and Mike Walley. Despite confusion during the qualifying process, the special election is nonpartisan.

     To win on Nov. 6, one candidate would have to capture more than 50 percent of votes cast. That’s deemed unlikely.

     “I can’t see that someone would win it outright,” Jordan said.

     If no one crosses the 50 percent threshold, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on Nov. 27.

     In other local races, all election commissioner seats are up for re-election.

     In District One, incumbent James Tillman stands unopposed. In District Three, Stan Long faces no opposition to take the seat currently held by Barbara Davis, who chose not to seek another term.

     In District Two, Democrat incumbent Michael Byrne hopes to fend off Republican challenger Tiffany Spencer Furr.

     In District Four, another Republican challenger, John Giust, hopes to take the seat from current office-holder Betty Carol Rushing, a Democrat.

     Rushing was appointed to the District Four seat in January after former incumbent Sisco resigned to seek the circuit clerk post.

     District Five sees another match-up between a Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger, with Greg Russell hoping to capture the seat from Marsha Britt Warren.

     Two Lincoln County School Board seats appear on Tuesday’s ballot, though only one is contested. School Board District One incumbent Kay Kyzar Coon will see a challenge by Martha Cole Lewman in the nonpartisan race.

     In the School Board District Two race, Johnny Hart has no opponent for the seat Stacey Newell current holds.

     Lincoln County voters will choose a candidate race for the District Two state Supreme Court justice post. Incumbent Mike Randolph is challenged by Talmadge Braddock in the nonpartisan race.

     In the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Gregg Harper faces Reform Party challenger John ‘Luke’ Pannell. A Democratic opponent withdrew from the race.

     The contest for one of Mississippi’s two Senate seats is a bit more crowded with Republican incumbent Roger Wicker seeking to fend off Democratic challenger Albert N. Gore, the Constitution Party’s Thomas Cramer and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.

     Finally, the main draw of the ballot will be the presidential match-up. Democrat incumbent Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden face Republican challenger Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan.

     In Mississippi, third party candidates on the ballot include Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, the Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and the Reform Party’s Barbara Dale Washer.

     Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the county’s 32 voting precincts.