Gulfport solves most of its election day issues

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's election day across south Mississippi.  Voters are being asked to determine who should lead their hurricane battered cities through the next phase of recovery.

In Gulfport, the mayor's seat is up for grabs.  It's one of five cities without an incumbent mayor running for re-election.  That's why Mary Jo Johnson used the phrase, "Very hectic" to describe her polling place.

"We've been busy.  Everything has gone smooth.  And we've got a lot to be thankful for," the poll worker said.

Johnson was thankful for missing Monday's news.  You see, she was unaware that Gulfport sent out incorrect voting cards.  So when she arrived at Orange Grove Elementary School to open the polls, she had no idea the mistake could have hampered the voters in her precinct.  However, she said the city "protected us" by throwing out the cards, and cleaning up poll books.

Voters seemed unfazed by the controversy.

"It's been fine," one lost voter said.  "I'm just trying to find out where I'm supposed to be."

Angela Haynes was a poll worker at the Gaston Hewes Recreation Center precinct.

"I thought that it would be really chaotic.  But it really has not been," said Haynes.  "We don't mind going the extra mile to try and find out where they need to go."

Those sorts of last minute mistakes were why candidates -- who spent weeks carefully building their campaigns -- feared turnout would be jeopardized.  A city spokesman said Gulfport was very proactive in heading off potential trouble before the election started.

The general belief at polling places was that Gulfport's quick action to rectify the mistakes kept voting problems to a minimum.

"Actually I think people are more excited about getting their vote in and getting it counted, because they don't mind going from one place to the other," said Haynes.  "Of course, that's frustrating.  But they've been doing it.  We encourage them to get out and vote."

The mayoral candidates in the Gulfport race are republicans George Schloegel and Joe Spraggins, and democrats Clyde Williams and Brian Dean.  The winners of primaries meet in the June general election.

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