Record turnout predicted in Warren, across state

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2000

A Warren County voter casts an absentee ballot. She was one of about 75 voting Saturday morning. (The Vicksburg Post/ROB MAXWELL)

Circuit Clerk Larry Ashley is predicting Warren County will follow a state trend with a record turnout at the polls Tuesday.

“I think (voters) are more excited this year,” Ashley said. “It’s a presidential election and there is usually a lot of interest.”

Polls in Warren County and across the state will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

In last year’s general election, which included the governor’s race and a non-binding referendum on the future of the U.S. 80 Mississippi River bridge, 14,922 people cast ballots in Warren County, about 48 percent of the eligible voters.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton was elected to a second term, a record turnout was recorded in Warren County with 18,829 out of 26,000 registered voters casting ballots.

Secretary of State Eric Clark this morning predicted 945,000 Mississippi’s will go to the polls Tuesday. He said that would be the second highest turnout ever, second only to the 1992 presidential campaign, when 982,000 people cast ballots.

Clark said the 945,000 figure represents about 47 percent of the voting age population in Mississippi.

George W. Bush is expected to carry Mississippi, just like Republican presidential candidates have in the past five elections. The last time a Democrat carried Mississippi was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Vice President Al Gore has not spent much money or time in the state. His sole visit was in February.

Bush last visited the state in March.

Ashley said the National Weather Service’s prediction of a 30 percent chance of rain Tuesday could keep some voters at home.

“People just don’t get out and vote when it rains,” he said.

In anticipation of 18,000 to 19,000 voters, 25,000 ballots have been printed for races that will see the president, a U.S. senator, all five representatives, a Supreme Court justice, Warren County coroner and three election commissioners posts decided. Other races on the ballots are uncontested.

The number of eligible voters has grown in the county from 30,289 a year ago to 31,370 today.

Another sign of a possible high turnout is the number of voters who cast absentee ballots before Saturday’s deadline. Nearly 1,000 ballots were turned in, Ashley said. Last year, there were 700.

“We’ve been real busy up here all week,” he said late Friday.

Locally on the ballot, the names of Ronald C. Regan, Allen Maxwell, Mark Morgan, Wanda Shay Clark Odom and John A. Thomason III will appear on the special election ballot for county coroner.

A runoff is scheduled in two weeks, on Nov. 21, if none of the five candidates captures a majority of the vote.

In Warren County Election Commission races, District 2 representative Retha Summers and District 1’s Johnny Brewer are running without opposition. Brewer was appointed to the commission by supervisors after the death of incumbent Lena Corbin.

District 3 incumbent LaShondra Williams, a Democrat, will face Republican Nancy Clingan; District 4’s James E. McMullin, a Republican, is being challenge by independent Bobbie Williamson; and District 5’s Gordon “Motor” Carr is being challenged by fellow Republican Karoline Finch.

In one of the most controversial races, Warren County Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor is seeking to unseat one-term incumbent Jim Smith for the Mississippi Supreme Court District 1, Position 3 spot.

The race has been mired in a battle over whether it was legal for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to advertise for four judicial candidates.

On Friday, Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary ordered a Chamber television ad for Smith and critical of Vollor halted.

The Chamber appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but a three-judge panel refused to block Singletary’s order. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Singletary, clearing the way for the ads.

Smith had asked the chamber to pull the ads Friday after earlier declining Vollor’s challenge to make the same request of ads complimentary to Smith.

In congressional races, Rep. Bennie Thompson, whose 2nd Congressional District includes Warren County, is seeking another trip to Washington, but will have to get past three opponents: Republican Hardy Caraway, Libertarian William Chipman and Reform Party candidate Lee Dilworth.

In the other congressional races:

First District Rep. Roger Wicker of Tupelo is expected to fend off a state legislator and win his fourth term, retaining the north Mississippi district for the GOP. Opponent Rep. Joey Grist is a second term Democratic lawmaker from Bruce.

Third District Republican Rep. Chip Pickering of Laurel is considered secure in his bid for a third term in his race against William Clay Thrash, a Democrat from Morton.

Fourth District Rep. Ronnie Shows headed into the election with a slight edge in a hot challenge by GOP candidate Dunn Lampton, a prosecutor from McComb. Shows, a former transportation commissioner from Bassfield, is facing his first re-election bid. Lampton has gotten support from national Republicans who are trying to maintain control of Congress. The race has been spirited, with both sides running ads critical of each other and the candidates maintaining busy schedules.

Fifth District Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis who has been in Congress since 1989, will likely beat Biloxi accountant Randy McDonnell, the Republican candidate, just as he did with 78 percent of the vote two years ago.

In the Senate race, Democrat Troy Brown Sr. is looking to upset Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican from the Pascagoula who is running for a third six-year term. Other hopefuls in that race are Libertarian Lewis Napper, Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara and independent Jim Giles.

On the Court of Appeals, incumbent Leslie King will be unopposed in his bid for his second six-year term in District 2, Position 2.

Zelmarine Murphy is unopposed in her bid for re-election to the School Board District 2 spot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.