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Use of paper ballots not an issue in Tuesday’s Republican runoff

Voters participating in Tuesday’s congressional Republican primary runoff went old school, using paper ballots instead of voting machines.

A total of 811 ballots were cast by voters in the Tuesday runoff using scannable paper ballots instead of the county’s voting machines.

Election officials scanned the ballots at the Warren County Courthouse.

Incomplete and unofficial returns showed Brian Flowers defeated Thomas Carey to be the Republican nominee and face incumbent U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton) in the November general election for the District 2 congressional seat.

Flowers carried the county with 598 votes to 211 for Carey. There were two write-in ballots.

Warren County Election Commission Chairman Sara Dionne said the county decided to go with paper ballots out of concern for the COVID-19 virus. She said the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office granted permission to use the ballots.

Tuesday’s runoff election marked the first election held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and Dionne said extra precautions were taken in preparation for the election.

“We did lots of training and sent out lots of equipment — PPE (personal protection equipment). Poll workers wore masks, we had face shields available; they had gloves, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizers,” she said.

The precinct floors were marked off by blue tape at 6-foot intervals for voters waiting to cast a ballot and the floor in the lobby of the courthouse, where the ballots were delivered was also marked off at 6-foot intervals.

“The bailiffs were at the (precinct) door asking people if they were healthy or ill,” Dionne said. “Any voter had the option to vote outside if they felt uncomfortable coming in or if we thought they weren’t healthy.”

She said the outside voting was handled in the same way as curbside voting during elections, where the poll book, ballot and the bag for the ballot are taken to the voter, who casts the ballot. “It’s the same process carried on inside, except you take it outside,” Dionne said.

She said there were no complaints from voters and the only problem involved a precinct location that lost its air conditioning.

Dionne said election officials expect to use the voting machines for the Nov. 3 general election, adding, “We should know in the next few weeks.”

She said Tuesday’s election provided good training in case the county has to use paper ballots in November.

“We got to test how all these different processes work and I will talk later to our poll manager to see if they have suggestions that can make it better or different but it is definitely a good practice run if we still have to deal with the COVID virus,” Dionne said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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