Ballot Snafu Hinders Harrison County Precinct - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

11/02/04

Ballot Snafu Hinders Harrison County Precinct

Donna Shaw had never seen anything like this in her 23 years as a Harrison County poll worker. She described the precinct as "a madhouse. I mean this is the best turnout we've had since I can't tell you when. I mean the best turnout."

The Orange Grove Community Center precinct was so busy, poll workers had no idea they were about to run into big trouble. In less than three hours, "We've run out of ballots," precinct manager June Stewart told a voter.

Willie Williams was one of the voters in line at the time.

"And I'm saying it's 10 something in the morning, and there are no ballots," he remembered on his second visit to the precinct. "That's ridiculous."

The baliff tried to explain the situation.

"They didn't give us enough ballots for the part that doesn't have the school board on it," she said.

They had plenty of school board ballots. Unfortunately, the vast majority of voters at this split precinct needed ballots without a school board race. And East Lyman didn't get enough of those. That news made it a very long morning for poll workers, and eager voters.

"Two times I've been here. I can't vote. So you tell me. Who's running the show here?" an angry voter asked as he stormed out of the precinct.

Wilbur Dees was just as mad.

"I can't believe it," the Harrison County voter said after finding out he, his wife, and his daughter couldn't vote because the precinct didn't have ballots.

"It seems like you would have some idea how many people are going to vote at this precinct and you would have at least that many ballots here."

Finally, at 11:30, the precinct baliff was handed a bag with a handful of extra ballots. But that 50 ballots disappeared quickly.

One of the people waiting for a ballot was a woman who went through the Palm Beach, Florida voting mess four years ago. Hanging chads haunted her then. No ballots plagued her this time.

"It can be frustrating waiting for a ballot," she said. "You're surprised by that because that isn't something you really would expect would happen."

Remember, the East Lyman precinct received a short supply of ballots without a school board race, far less than what it needed. But it got several hundred ballots with that unopposed race. So, here's how the circuit clerk finally rectified the East Lyman ballot snafu.

She told poll workers to unseal the large stack of unused school board ballots. They had to cross out the school board race, initial the ballot, and pass them out to voters. By early afternoon, another batch of correct ballots arrived at the Orange Grove Community Center.

by Brad Kessie

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