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Hosemann talks shop, voting with interim clerk

Published 2:34 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interim Circuit Clerk Greg Peltz’s first visit from the state was far less dramatic than the most recent dealings of his predecessor.

“You just call if you need anything,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told Peltz at the end of a whirlwind half-hour tour and lightning-quick tutoring session with deputy circuit clerks in the office.

Hosemann showed up Tuesday in the clerk’s second-floor office space in Warren County Courthouse for two reasons — to formally sign over the deed to Vicksburg Auditorium to the City of Vicksburg and to assist information technology and legal officials in training deputy clerks how to create election-related databases and properly display protocol on voter ID.

“No one else in the office knows how to handle the poll books,” said Peltz, who said he requested Hosemann’s help. Five of six deputy clerks were held over from the staff of deposed clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree. A deputy who no longer works in the office, handled election-related material, prompting the need for some teaching, Peltz said.

A special election is expected to be set for Nov. 4, when voters here and statewide go to the polls to choose members of Congress and decide winners in judicial and school board races. Supervisors declared the circuit clerk’s office vacant May 19 and appointed Peltz, a former retail store manager. They cited state law governing county office vacancies as part of the order; the statute says they are to order the Warren County election commission in writing to command an election on the next regular special election date to fill the vacancy.

Sara Carlson Dionne, the commission’s chairwoman, said Tuesday she was under the impression the board would formally set the date. County supervisors took no action on the circuit clerk’s office during its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Hosemann recited proper procedures on voter ID from literature his office has produced as part of a public relations campaign on the topic this year.

Statewide, 1,011 Mississippi Voter ID cards were issued as of May 14 to comply with the 2011 initiative OK’d by the state’s voters to amend state law to make showing photo ID mandatory at the polls, according to Hosemann’s office. The bulk of them, 50, have been issued in Holmes County. None have been issued in Warren County.

The Mississippi Voter Identification Card is available free at circuit clerk’s offices statewide. Those without ID may cast an affidavit ballot which will be counted if the voter returns to the appropriate clerk’s office within five business days after the election and shows government-issued ID. Voters with a religious objection to being photographed may also vote affidavit, after which the voter returns to the clerk’s office and signs another affidavit that the religious exemption applies to them.

Ten types of photo IDs will be accepted at the polls. They include a driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, a U.S. passport, a government employee ID card, a firearms license, a student ID issued by an accredited state university or community college, a U.S. military ID, a tribal photo ID, a federally-issued ID and the Mississippi Voter ID Card.

Hosemann said monitors from his office and personnel from the Office of the State Auditor will be on hand in all 82 counties in the state for the June 3 primary to ensure poll workers follow the ID law. He also mentioned an Attorney General’s opinion issued since the ID law went into effect that said Hosemann’s office must contact appropriate District Attorney’s offices anywhere election law is reportedly broken. State law already carries penalties for poll workers who don’t ask for proper identification at each precinct. Penalties are light, however — fines range from $25 to $100 and jail time between 10 to 90 days.

“We want to make sure everybody is asked for an ID — whether it be the mayor or your mother,” Hosemann said.

The auditorium’s official transfer signals a march toward more enhancements for the 58-year-old structure on Monroe Street, particularly a new wheelchair ramp, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said after signing paperwork with Hosemann inside the circuit courtroom, where a signing ceremony was moved due to cramped space inside the busy clerk’s office.

“Often, people in wheelchairs have to be wheeled to the back,” Flaggs said. “Now, we can put out for bids on design.”

The building had been deeded to the Mississippi Commission on Natural Resources in 1985 so it could be upgraded with state bond money. That agreement expired in 2010 but the deed stayed in the state’s name. In March, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill sponsored by state Sen. Briggs Hopson III that transferred ownership back to the city. Tuesday’s deed transfer finalized the process.