There are problems with elections in this city, problems that every citizen should be worried about.
Joyce Jackson and her attorney John Reeves helped bring that to light when they successfully challenged the legality of the Feb. 28 Ward 3 runoff election in court. A jury felt Jackson presented enough evidence of polling improprieties to order another election.
With the help of the Hinds County Election Commission, the city held another court-ordered Ward 3 runoff election July 24. This time, instead of poll workers, the commissioners tripped over their own feet while tallying the votes.
Initially, the election commission counted only 33 votes at Precinct 11, located in the Jackson Medical Mall. If not for an observant eye, another 88 votes would have gone uncounted forever.
Jackson Free Press reporter Jacob Fuller and intern Aaron Cooper visited the Jackson Medical Mall on Election Day to check in on the voting numbers a little after 2 p.m. At that time, Fuller noted that 67 voters had signed the rolls. By the end of the day, 121 voters had signed and voted at the precinct.
No one in either the county or city election commissioners' offices noticed the discrepancy until Fuller pointed it out to them July 26, two days after the election and after the city Election Commission had certified the results.
When he pointed out the mistake, the county said tallying the votes is the city election commissioner's job. Fuller then called Election Commissioner Beryl P. Williams, who said she knew nothing about the discrepancy between the vote total and the voter roll. She hadn't looked at the voter roll, she said.
The explanation was that an issue arose because a poll worker pressed a button that stopped one voting machine from downloading correctly. That mistake could have easily been discovered and corrected, though, if only someone had bothered to look at the number of signatures on the voter roll and verified the precincts reported votes against the roll.
Only 188 votes separated challenger Jackson and winner LaRita Cooper-Stokes. The real loser in the election was not Ms. Jackson, however, it was the 88 voters who almost didn't have their voices heard, and the people of this city who expect a complete, fair and mistake-free election.
In am atmosphere where the city election commissioners can't be bothered to verify voting machine totals against voter rolls, it's no wonder that voters feel their voices don't count. Mississippi doesn't need Voter Ids to "protect the purity" of the vote. It needs politicians, poll workers and election bureaucrats to give a damn about the people who count on them to keep elections fair and honest.
Phoning it in, whether by ideology or laziness, just keeps us stuck in the same muddy tracks we've been in for far too long.