Runoff voting light, smooth across Warren

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Turnout was reported to be light but smooth as voters in Warren County and across the state went to the polls today to choose Democratic and Republican nominees for November’s general election.

The first dozen votes at the south Vicksburg-based Jett precinct were cast in the air-conditioned comfort of Immanuel Baptist’s activity center off U.S. 61 South. Poll workers had manned the Aug. 2 primary in sweltering heat at No. 5 Fire Station at Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

“It’s much better this time,” poll manager Kathryn Osborn said.

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Warren County and the church agreed to hold elections there through 2015. The precinct has about 1,500 voters. A full complement of machines was available at Jett. Osborn said it was likely each electronic ballot card would be taken to the courthouse to be totaled, which, if other precincts follow suit, could mean a long process after polls close at 7 tonight. Five hours elapsed on primary night between closing and totals.

Temperatures hit 100 in Vicksburg when voters went to the polls Aug. 2, said the National Weather Service. Highs were to hit that mark again by afternoon, with the heat index near 108 and a 30 percent chance of showers.

Winners advance to Nov. 8.

People who voted in one party’s primary Aug. 2 are not allowed to cross over and vote in the other party’s runoff today. Those who didn’t vote Aug. 2 may cast a ballot in either runoff. Mississippi does not register voters by party. Turnout in Warren County for the primary was about 30 percent.

Local races include two on the GOP side, for chancery clerk and county supervisor in District 1.

Donna Farris Hardy, a retired health care administrator faces City Accountant Doug Whittington for the clerk post, elected countywide. Hardy finished 89 votes ahead of Whittington in the 5,312 votes cast in the first segment of the three-way primary. The winner faces City Clerk Walter Osborne, a Democrat, and independents Alecia Ashley and Gene Thompson Nov. 8.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald faces John Arnold in the runoff for the northeastern Warren County seat. On Aug. 2, McDonald finished ahead of Arnold, a real estate broker, by 107 votes out of 2,006 cast in a three-man race. The winner faces independents Jerry Briggs and Reed Birdsong.

Turnout at Culkin, the largest precinct, was light and expected to stay that way until midday, poll manager Jan Whatley said.

“There has been no rush this morning,” she said.

Whatley said 70 Republicans and 16 Democrats had voted by 7:45 a.m. The precinct has 4,897 voters and is expected to decide the McDonald-Arnold runoff.

New to Culkin is a curbside voting service for the handicapped. Cars can pull up to the designated voting area and a poll worker will take a paper ballot to the car. Sherman Avenue Elementary principal Ray Hume said traffic “went smoothly.”

“We shifted some personnel around to give more direction,” he said. “It’s still a little congested. We worry about the safety of the children and we let the election commission worry about getting their people in to vote.”

Jacob Brister voted as polls opened. “This runoff is very important, especially to the county,” he said.

At Vicksburg Junior High, the largest inside the city, the pace was “slow, slow and slow,” poll manager Deborah Washington said. Seventeen people had voted there by 7:45 — 12 Dems and five Republicans. The precinct has 2,389 registered voters.

Seven had voted in the first 30 minutes at Vicksburg Auditorium, three Republicans and four Dems, poll manager Carla Jones. “It might pick up a little later on when people get off work, but right now it’s very slow.”

In state races, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Clarksdale attorney and developer Bill Luckett are in the Democratic runoff for governor, and the winner faces Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant of Brandon, and others, in November.

State Personnel Board director Lynn Fitch of Madison and state Sen. Lee Yancey of Brandon are in the GOP runoff for treasurer. The winner faces Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, a Democrat.

Runoffs also are set in Claiborne and Sharkey counties.

In Claiborne, Frank Davis, sheriff since 1979, faces Marvin E. Lucas.

In Sharkey County, District 2 Supervisor Melvin Jones faces Leroy Smith Jr. The winner will face independents Ellis Stuart, Christopher Booker and Eugene Lane Jr. in November.

November local races:

• Circuit clerk, where incumbent Shelly Ashley-Palmertree, Democrat, faces Republican David Sharp and independents Jan Hyland Daigre and Robert Terry.

• Sheriff, where incumbent Martin Pace, independent, faces Democrat Bubba Comans.

• Tax assessor, where Democrat Angela Brown faces Republican Mike Caruthers and independents Ben Luckett and Doug Tanner.

• Tax collector, where incumbent Antonia Flaggs Jones, a Democrat, faces Republican Patty Mekus.

• District 2 supervisor, where incumbent William Banks, a Democrat, faces Republican Trey Smith and independent De Reul.

• District 3 supervisor, where incumbent Charles Selmon, Democrat, faces independent James Stirgus Jr.

• District 4 supervisor, where incumbent Bill Lauderdale, an independent, faces Democrat Casey Fisher.

• District 5 supervisor, where incumbent Richard George, an independent, faces J.W. Carroll, Joe Wooley and Ellis Tillotson, also independents.