Challenger in race for school board disqualified|[10/09/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2006

The only challenger in the District 2 race for the Vicksburg Warren School District board did not submit the certified signatures needed to qualify, the chairman of the Warren County Election Commission said this morning.

Avis Phillips’ disqualification leaves Zelmarine Murphy as the apparent shoo-in for a fourth six-year term on the Board of Trustees, which sets policy for the 9,200-student district.

Phillips, 41, filed qualifying papers with the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s office Friday, shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline for the Nov. 7 election.

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&#8220She turned in a petition with 168 signatures; only 113 of those people were registered voters,” said Johnny Brewer, Election Commission chairman. &#8220You have to have 150 registered voter signatures to qualify. We checked and re-checked those names.

&#8220It’s our responsibility to make sure these people are in fact registered and qualified voters,” he said. &#8220That’s one of the pitfalls to turning in a petition at the last minute. If she had gotten it in earlier, then we could have immediately notified her that she needed more signatures, but we definitely do not have the authority to extend the deadline.”

Phillips said she felt she had done all she could to ensure that all signatures on her petition were valid.

&#8220I started getting signatures near the end of September, maybe the 20th,” Phillips said. &#8220And I went door-to-door asking people if they were registered. It’s just hard to believe that many people were not registered – I mean 55 signatures.

&#8220I knew a lot of those people,” she said. &#8220There were also some people who didn’t know what district they were in because of rezoning. I need to look into this myself.”

Trustees are elected under the same district lines as county supervisors.

Murphy was first elected in 1988 just after the consolidated district was formed by combining formerly separate city and count districts.

&#8220We have her for another six years, whether we like it or not,” said Phillips, a contract worker for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. &#8220Nobody else got out there and tried to challenge her. At least I tried.”

Terms for the five-member board are staggered, so there is never a completely new board. The District 2 seat was the only school board position appearing on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Other members of the board are Jerry Boland, District 1; Betty Tolliver, District 3; Jan Daigre, president, District 4; and Tommy Shelton, District 5.

Members are paid $2,400 per year.