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Problems plague polls during party primaries (MS)
Daily Leader. May 06, 2009. By: THERESE APEL, Staff Writer
Tuesday's party primaries were not without problems, unfortunately, as several citizens who have lived in the same place for many years went to the polls and found themselves not on the voter rolls. 

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson, who lives on J.W. Morgan Way; Police Capt. Bobby Bell; and city Democratic Committee member Doc Harrison were all among citizens who had to vote by affidavit ballot because when they arrived to vote, they were told they were possibly in the wrong ward.

Both City Clerk Mike Jinks and Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins said it was hard to pinpoint what exactly caused the problem. Jinks said his office had submitted city information to Watkins' office, and Watkins said the streets submitted by people who had to vote affidavit were not on the list of those to be moved after the city's annexation in 2007.

"We haven't changed them, so apparently they could have been in the wrong ward all along," Watkins said. "For instance, J.W. Morgan Way was not on the list to change that we received. When you have an annexation and some of the ward lines change, you're going to have situations like this."

Jinks said the problem could lie with a new voting system being used statewide. He said his office submits the information to the circuit clerk's office, but that the problem doesn't necessarily lie in the inputting of the information. It could have been a system malfunction.

"I don't know why they were changed. We had people who had been voting in the same place for 15-20 years," he said. "It could have been the voting system for the city. All the city people are still in the system because we vote in the county, so there have to parameters set for the city wards."

The system input is done by Watkins' office, Jinks said, and at some point he had understood that there were problems with the system. That was near the time that Watkins was sidelined with some health issues that also caused training conflicts on the voting machines used in the state, national and county elections.

"I don't if it's in the input or something wrong with the system, I know when I was doing the machine, we had some information from Terry that there were problems with the system," Jinks said. "Once we did annexation we took her the street ranges and they're the ones who did the input."

But the affidavit ballot problems were not the only ones at the polls.

"I was really appalled by the election process - how it was handled, how it was done," said alderman at large candidate Terry Pappas, venting frustration about things he witnessed Tuesday while visiting the polls, especially Ward Three. "Something needs to be done, and somebody needs to be in charge. All I heard yesterday is, 'No it isn't me, it's them, them, them,' pointing a finger. It was kind of embarrassing being involved in that process."

More confusion occurred in Ward Four's Republican Primary, where a pair of poll workers tallying votes in the race for Ward Four alderman came up with irreconcilable numbers after an additional hour of double-checking.

Dennis Valentine, temporary chairman of municipal Republican Party committee, estimated the difference between the two tally sheets to be approximately 25 votes. Given the nearly two to one lead gathered by winning candidate Shirley Estes by night's end, however, the discrepancy would not have affected the outcome of either race.

Meanwhile, at Ward Three, poll workers did not inform some voters that they could vote affidavit until after that problem had been brought to their attention around lunchtime.

"Of course Ward Three was a mess from the beginning of the day till the end of the day. There was so many things messed up," said Pappas. "We've been having elections in this city for 150 years now. How long does it take to get it right? It's not rocket science."

Ward Three alderman candidate Brian Moore said he was poll watching and was discouraged to see voters not being told which party candidates were running in before they chose a party, as well as being sent to the city clerk's office with the impression that they couldn't vote in their own ward.

"My tongue was bleeding I bit it so hard. The word 'frustrating' keeps coming up but frustrating doesn't even come close, so the word 'disenfranchised' keeps coming to mind over and over again," he said. "I never truly understood that word until yesterday."

Early in the day Tuesday at Ward Six, a poll worker was unable to explain to a voter why incumbent Alderman David Phillips' name was not listed on the Democratic primary ballot.

The reason is that Phillips is running as an Independent and is not affiliated with a party. His name will not appear until the general election ballot in June.

Regarding the voter location issues, Watkins said her office will work with Jinks' office to try to the voter rolls as soon as affidavit ballots are counted.

"We're going to work hard with them and anyone that had to vote affidavit," she said. "They'll bring us those envelopes and get everyone where they should be. We'll go back and make sure everybody's in the right place." 

Original article at: http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20310752&BRD=1377&PAG=461&dept_id=172922&rfi=6

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