Sept. 7, 2011
Hinds County residents who voted in Terry's Dry Grove precinct Aug. 2 may need to return to the polls to vote again for a Democratic candidate for the District 73 Mississippi House of Representatives seat.
Gay Polk ran for the seat, but official totals show that she lost to her opponent Brad Oberhousen by just 90 votes. The Democratic Executive Committee certified the final results showing Oberhousen received 2,103 votes, or 51.09 percent, to Polk's 2,013, or 48.91 percent.
Polk filed a formal election challenge last month after reports surfaced that she had been left off the ballot at the Wynndale and Dry Grove precincts.
Polk hopes that a letter she and the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee received from Hinds County Election Commissioner Connie Cochran will move her case forward.
Cochran wrote Sept. 1 that voters had received the wrong ballots at the Dry Grove precinct. Dry Grove, like Wynndale, is a split precinct where two different legislators represent its residents. Cochran estimated that 162 voters received the wrong ballot at the Dry Grove precinct. Polk says that more than 200 voters received the wrong ballots at the Dry Grove and Wynndale precincts.
"It's up to the party to give these voters the opportunity to vote," Polk said. "If the party does not call for a re-vote in Dry Grove, ... I have no other avenues then seek a court opinion."
She added later, "The only way to take care of the mess is to at least have these 162 people re-vote in the proper district. That's the logical thing."
That decision is now up the Hinds County Election Commission.
"It's in process, and we can't comment on what could be pending legislation, but the process is working," Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Claude McInnis said last week.
Polk, 61, has lived in Terry for 25 years and worked as an administrator and nurse at her husband Dr. James D. Polk's primary family-care clinic in Richland. Four years ago, the couple sold the clinic, and Gay Polk started a second career as a real estate agent.
Polk said that she is worried about the cost of challenging the election if she decides to take the issue to court.
"This is going to cost me a lot of money to challenge this," Polk said. "I don't see why it should cost so much money to challenge something that is a right for all Americans--and that is the right to vote."
Oberhousen, 33, is an attorney who owns Oberhousen Law Firm in Jackson. He earned his bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University in 2000 and his law degree from Mississippi College in 2002.
The Terry resident said he will continue
to campaign for the Nov. 8 election.
Polk said split precincts are a result of the Legislature and county's redistricting battle this year. If elected, she wants to eliminate all split precincts. Oberhousen agreed that split precincts are confusing but doubted much could be done to change them.
"It would be helpful if you could redraw all the legislative lines to coincide with each different precinct, but these districts are based on population, and I don't know if it's possible to not have split precincts," Oberhousen said.
"They are all over the state. But it would definitely be easier if you could cut out split precincts."