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Voters in some split precincts get wrong ballots  (MS)
Richard Lake    The Clarion-Ledger    07 November 2007

Candidates in some of Hinds County's split precincts were worried Tuesday that mistakes made by poll workers could affect election results.

In several split precincts, which cover more than one legislative district, poll workers sometimes called up the incorrect ballot on voting machines for some voters, election officials and candidates said.

Hinds County Election Commissioner Connie Cochran said she would not be surprised if results are challenged because of the problem.

The problems were reported at Precinct 37, which is at Boyd Elementary School; Precinct 81, which is at Callaway High School; and Precinct 93, which is at Victory A.M.E. Zion Church.

"It's the same problem they had back in August," Precinct 81 voter Bill Dilday said. "I don't understand why the election commission cannot get it right."

Some voters were not able to vote in some races because of the problem. Affected races included incumbent John Reeves, R-Jackson, against Democrat Adrienne Wooten for House District 71, and the House District 66 contest between Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, and Republican Cory Wilson.

"Anytime a person is intervening between a voter and his or her vote, that is cause for alarm," said Reeves, who lost but says he will contest the race. "Anytime, anywhere."

Cochran said it's impossible to know how many voters might have been affected. She noted that some voters who complain might be the ones who are mistaken, not necessarily the election worker.

"I think there is confusion on both the workers' and the voters' part," Cochran said.

It worked like this, according to the campaigns: A voter would be sent to a machine to vote, and a poll worker would call up the voter's ballot. Sometimes, that worker would call up ballot B instead of ballot A for a specific voter. All but one of the races would be on the ballot, so it is likely most voters did not notice the missing race.

Michael Raymond, Wilson's campaign manager, said the issue probably wouldn't be a big deal if either candidate won by a landslide, but it could be a serious problem in a close race.

Cochran said poll workers are trained, but that doesn't mean they won't make mistakes.

"It appears as though many of them have forgotten," she said. "I don't know how extensive it is. I've dealt only with isolated cases."

Andrew Robinson, the manager of one of the affected precincts, 93 in Jackson, denied there was a problem. "It's been real smooth today," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Voter John Cress, 74, said he had no problem voting in the precinct.

Elsewhere in and around Jackson, less potentially serious problems were reported.

At least two precincts in Hinds County got off to a late start, one because workers had the wrong poll book and one because poll workers were locked out.

There were other minor glitches reported, such as a voting machine or two needing to be rebooted before they'd work.

State Sen. Perry Lee said there was a problem with at least one machine in Mendenhall - it would vote for the opposite candidate. Officials with the Simpson County Circuit Clerk's office said that problem was limited to one voter who apparently had used the machine incorrectly.

Circuit clerks in Rankin, Madison and Yazoo counties reported nothing serious, just the busy rush at 7 a.m. followed by a steady flow of voters. The secretary of state's office and the American Civil Liberties Union also said no serious problems were reported.

Ridgeland voter Kim Fritts, 45, said Tuesday was the first time she had voted.

"It was fun," she said outside Precinct 110. "I'm going to do it again."

She said she is friends with Delbert Hosemann, who won the post of secretary of state, and was glad to vote for him.

"I was a little nervous when I went in," Fritts said. "I didn't know what to expect, but the people were really nice."

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