How much of a role will the jail beatings trial have on primary election results? That's one of the questions that will be answered tonight once polling places close. Harrison County's sheriff is up for re-election. Four other republicans and two democrats would like his badge. Harrison County has as many as seven races that appear on its ballots, as well as two dozen state races.
What a difference nine months and a change of voting systems made for people at the D'Iberville Civic Center. Harrison County went back to paper ballots, and smiles returned to poll workers faces. Mattie Crain described the opening few hours of voting as "a madhouse. Pretty steady." And she said none of those voters had discrepancies with the machines used to tabulate their ballots.
The early crowd was so steady, the book Mildred Krohn brought with her never came out of her purse.
"We haven't even had time to speak to one another, let alone read," laughed Krohn.
Last November, touch screen voting confusion created long lines that plagued the D'Iberville precinct. Marie Clement was a poll worker that day. She said the problems in November had a lot to do with the equipment.
"Oh yes, because we only had two working last time. Four broke down," she remembered.
Her boss at the D'Iberville precinct then and now was Ray Phillips. He liked the touch screens. And he wished the county would have kept them. However, he admitted Harrison County's decision to bring back paper ballots made the statewide primary run a lot smoother.
"We've had one heck of a large turnout," he said.
Down the road, the Margaret Sherry Library was one of the precincts where the winner of the republican's district 117 house race would go to Jackson. So early on, GOP voters outnumbered democrats five to one.
The library poll workers had a similar story to tell. The paper ballots did what Harrison County election leaders hoped -- they created a primary that was basically free of voting glitches. Otelia Green was one of the poll managers.
"It's been real busy. When we opened and during the day it's been steady," she said.
A mid afternoon thunderstorm did cause one rather serious problem. A lightning strike short circuited the ballot scanner at Gulfport's National Guard Armory. Poll workers kept uncounted ballots in an emergency folder. And once the machine was replaced, they ran those ballots through the system.