Dionne is first to seek position on election board

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A poll worker became the first candidate to qualify for the five-member Warren County Election Commission this week.

Sara Carlson Dionne, 56, filed a petition to run for the District 4 seat on the panel, which enrolls voters, assigns polling places, certifies non-party candidates, conducts all general and special elections and certifies results to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Incumbent commissioner John Rundell, 84, plans to seek a third term, he said when reached Tuesday. Each seat comes up for re-election during presidential election cycles. Qualifying papers for the offices are handled by the Chancery Clerk’s Office, unlike other county offices which qualify with the circuit clerk. The qualifying period ends June 4.

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“It’s been my interest to run for a while,” said Dionne, a rental property manager and 20-year poll worker in the southwest Warren County district. “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do.”

Rundell, a former county purchasing agent, has held the seat since his appointment in 2005.

“I have my signatures just about in hand,” Rundell said.

The commission came under scrutiny during last year’s statewide and county elections. After a post-election review of sealed ballots via a records request, Republican tax collector candidate Patty Mekus said 66 affidavit ballots the commission reviewed were rejected for the same reason others were accepted and that 36 absentee ballots were stamped “rejected” without a reason, as required by law.

Mekus lost to incumbent Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs-Jones by 56 votes out of 15,204 cast.

A letter to the editor Dec. 28 in The Vicksburg Post signed by four of the five incumbent commissioners said each candidate in the race was given a chance to challenge the results and that Mekus’ request essentially was overkill.

The commission’s incumbents are Petesy Smith, Retha Summers, Elva Smith and Lonnie Wooley.

The election commission seats accompany three other district-level races that appear on the Nov. 6 general ballot. Others include the District 2 seat on the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees and positions on the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

Qualifying ends May 11 for the judicial races and Sept. 7 for school board.