Hinds Officials Point Fingers | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hinds Officials Point Fingers


Campaign supporters inserted themselves in the Hinds County election process last week.

After five days of tension and confusion over the results of Hinds County Elections, the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee expects to return to the county courthouse tomorrow and certify Tyrone Lewis as the official winner of the sheriff's race.

The sheriff's race wasn't the only race contested this week. Candidates from other close races such as state representative for District 73 Gay Polk and Hinds County District 3 Supervisor George Smith camped out at the courthouse waiting for the final results.

At about 8 p.m. yesterday, the Hinds County Election Commission reported unofficial numbers for the Hinds County Sheriff's race. Tyrone Lewis leads the race with 18,788 votes or 50.79 percent and Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin has 16,702 or 45.15 percent and Johnnie Bowden with 1,500. The current totals do not involve a runoff.

Over the course of five days, attorneys, election commissioners and the executive committee seemed to argue at every turn of the process. They debated whether some absentee ballots should have been counted and campaign supporters such as Andrew McMillin, son of Malcolm McMilllin, said he discovered affidavit ballots in the circuit clerk's office that had not been taken into account. Officials had also incorrectly separated absentee ballots from their envelopes and therefore were not able to properly document which precinct they came from.

On Friday, the election commission discovered approximately 222 additional votes from voting machines at Pearl Street A.M.E. Church. Election Commissioner. Marilyn Avery said poll workers had incorrectly tallied the machines.

On Saturday, Hinds County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Pete Perry said that the election process that transpired last week isn't uncommon. He is also searching for any misplaced Republican absentee ballots and ensuring that the number of voters signed up at the polls matches the number of votes cast.

"We have to do everything they have to do, but because what we do isn't going to change the outcome of any election, I don't have to answer to 50 people every time I do something," Perry said. "If it's a close election, you are going to have this. "

Perry also said that while counting ballots is an open process, party officials don't have to permit candidates or supporters to insert themselves in the process.

"(Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Claude McInnis) could have done this differently," Perry said. "He could have said: 'You can sit here and watch but you can't comment or ask questions. We are going to do our job.' "

Perry says that the more confusing the process gets, the election is more likely to have public scrutiny and challenges from candidates because there is room for doubt.

Perry, however, didn't entirely defend the party's handling of the election.

"I don't know if its intentional or crooked or fraud, but I will say that it's sloppy," he said. "But it's going on in 81 other counties too."

Perry also accused the Democratic Party officials of not properly inspecting poll bags to make sure all ballots had been accounted for.

Democratic Executive Committee officials took issue with Perry's accusations and defended themselves yesterday when they unexpectedly reconvened at the courthouse.

"We have to take our time, and people have to be patient, and they haven't been," Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee Vice Chairwoman Jacquie Amos Norris said. "That has been our issue for the past several days. We have 10 days to certify the election,"

Norris said that her committee properly inspected all ballot bags and boxes and kept an organized system for accounting for ballots.

Once the election is certified, a candidate can file a notice to inspect the votes within 12 days. If the candidate finds additional problems, he or she can file a notice of a challenge within 21 days of the election.

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