Church activity center eyed for new Oak Ridge precinct|[08/23/2008]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 23, 2008

Some voters in northeast Warren County might cast ballots at a different location for the Nov. 4 general election.

Members of Bradley’s Chapel United Methodist Church will vote Sunday whether to approve a lease to house the Oak Ridge precinct, polling place for 198 voters registered in the rural community.

If members agree, touch-screen voting machines will be set up in the church’s community and teen center at 11031 Oak Ridge Road. The building is also home to the church-organized Oak Ridge Opry music and entertainment social.

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Elections in the precinct had been held at Oak Ridge Grocery, 10645 Oak Ridge Road, less than a half-mile away. Its owner, Warren County Fire Coordinator and Environmental Officer Kelly Worthy, said areas previously used for voting are being converted into general storage space.

Clara Oakes, the church’s youth center committee director, said the facility’s handicapped accessibility and additional parking would serve the voters in the precinct well. The short time frame between now and the general election will dictate a quick submittal of paperwork to the U.S. Department of Justice, said Paul Winfield, attorney for the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

In keeping with federal law governing voting rights, DOJ officials will interview selected local officials as part of the transition process. That is likely to involve some members of the county board and community leaders in the precinct, Winfield said.

International Paper’s Vicksburg Mill, physical site of the 3-61 precinct, will remain in use for voting in this year’s election despite the recent explosion and partial shutdown, Board President Richard George said, because the voting takes place away from the plant itself.

In Warren County, voters will decide races for president and congressional races on the federal level, a state Supreme Court seat and two local races. State Board of Elections officials will meet Sept. 9 to set a sample ballot to send off to local election commissions.

U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain will appear as the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties. Candidates from third parties will also be on the ballot, once set.

In federal races, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson will face Jackson teacher Richard Cook for the 2nd Congressional District race. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is being challenged for a sixth term by former state Rep. Erik R. Fleming, a Democrat from Clinton.

A special election to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott will be incorporated into general voting. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, appointed to the seat by Gov. Haley Barbour, is opposed by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Local races include two seats on the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees, in District 3 and 4, and all five Warren County Election Commission members.

No candidates have qualified for school board. District 3 Trustee Betty Tolliver has said she will run for a second term. District 4 Trustee Jan Daigre has said she will not seek a second term, which runs for six years. Qualifying with the Circuit Clerk’s Office runs through Oct. 3.

Currently, election commissioners are Johnny Brewer in District 1, Retha Summers in District 2, Patricia Washington in District 3, John Rundell in District 4 and Gordon Carr in District 5.

So far, Rundell and Carr have qualified to run for re-election. Qualifying with the Chancery Clerk’s Office for the five posts runs through Sept. 5.