By CARL SMITH
Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Angie McGinnis said she alerted Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office to reports of voting irregularities during the Aug. 2 primaries and expects state observers to monitor the polls during runoffs.
McGinnis met with members of the county Republican Party yesterday and discussed their concerns with the reported irregularities. She said the members did ask if the secretary of state’s office had been contacted.
“Since the Republican Party did express concern and since we did have more irregularities than normal, we have been in contact with (Hosemann’s) office,” McGinnis said. “I look forward to having observers here.”
Various irregularities were reported from the Aug. 2 primary. Election officials confiscated a number of pre-marked Democratic ballot proofs after they learned the ballots indicated votes for certain candidates and were being handed out to voters as they approached polling locations. Officials deemed the pre-marked ballots to be campaign material. Mississippi Code states no campaign literature or signs are allowed within 150 feet of any polling location’s entrance. Complaints were also made to McGinnis’ office in reference to aggressive poll watchers, candidates who were campaigning too close to polling locations and questionable voter assistance.
McGinnis said proofing ballots were not supposed to be used outside of her office. If a sample ballot is given to the public, it is supposed to be clearly marked as such. The confiscated proof ballots were not marked in such a manner.
“We’re still trying to get to the bottom of how the proofing ballot got out. We’re taking steps to ensure that all sample ballots are clearly marked,” McGinnis said. “If I do find out that someone in the office did have a hand in getting it out, there will be a penalty — possible termination. I take this very seriously.”
Jack Forbus, a former chairman of the Oktibbeha County Republican Party, was one of the individuals who met with McGinnis yesterday and said he is concerned over individuals tampering with the election process.
“Apparently somebody tried to monkey with the system to make it less than a free election. This is obviously not proper,” he said.
While Forbus did say he was in support of state observers at the polls during the runoff election, he said he has full faith in McGinnis to run a proper, fair election.
In addition to state observers, McGinnis said she will conduct additional training with county voting returns/receiving managers.
“They’re going to come in and pick up the ballot boxes on Aug. 22, and we’re going to sit down and go through the irregularities,” she said. “Since the ballots are smaller for the runoff, we’ll depend on more experienced workers. I’m going to communicate with my managers to send more information to bailiffs so they have copies of the laws or rules as they apply if anything like this happens again.”