Mekus says ballot rejections ‘improper’ Info gleaned from challenge going to state

Published 11:45 am Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thirty-six of 38 absentee ballots cast Nov. 8 were improperly rejected, defeated tax collector candidate Patty Mekus said Monday after she and fellow Republicans reviewed sealed absentee ballots.

“I’m really disheartened by the things we found today,” Mekus said when reached at the end of the all-day session — a sign of Mekus’ advocacy in the wake of a 56-vote loss to incumbent Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs-Jones.

Also, she said, 66 affidavits reviewed with the Warren County Election Commission were rejected for the same reasons others were accepted.

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“I would encourage anyone who voted affidavit and receiving a letter as to why their ballot was rejected, to file a public records request to see rejected and accepted ballots from their precinct and see for themselves if theirs was rejected for the same reason another may have been accepted,” Mekus said.

Notes and photos “will be processed and given to the secretary of state and the attorney general,” Mekus said this morning. “We will use what we have documented to press for legislative changes.”

Mekus had asked the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s Office to examine all votes cast in the general election. Mekus indicated the committee focused on 38 absentee ballot envelopes, the 66 affidavits and five precincts’ worth of accepted affidavits.

She said none of the 38 envelopes had been opened. Two of the 38 absentees were listed rejected with a reason, as is required by state law, she said.

The rest were labeled by hand “rejected” and had no reason listed, she said. Also, Mekus said, three names from absentee voter lists posted at Tingleville precinct are missing from the batch of ballots.

Her committee on Monday consisted of local campaign reps David Gibson, Bob Croisdale and Karoline Finch, and Jeppie Barbour, the brother of Gov. Haley Barbour.

Absentee ballots are processed post-election in Mississippi, with poll managers tasked with throwing out absentee forms from anyone found to have voted in person. Then, they are taken back to the courthouse along with the poll votes cast. In Warren County, votes are cast on electronic cards inserted into a touch-screen machine.

Reasons for rejecting an absentee ballot include failure of the voter and an attesting witness to sign the flap of the envelope, if the applicant is found to have voted in person, if the ballot envelope contains more than one ballot of any kind, if an affidavit is required and found to be insufficient,or if officials find the absentee voter is otherwise disqualified to vote.

Anyone who claims registration in a county or district but isn’t found in poll books may cast an affidavit ballot at the polls.

Flaggs-Jones was certified the winner Nov. 18 with 7,630 votes to Mekus’ 7,574. Mekus closed a 101-vote gap on election night by winning a slight majority of 833 absentee and affidavit ballots mostly hand-counted. A second batch of absentee forms mailed to several circuit clerks in October after language on three constitutional initiatives was added contained no scannable codes, which prompted the manual tally.