Confederate Battle Flag Debate Spurs More People To Vote - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/07/02

Confederate Battle Flag Debate Spurs More People To Vote

In thirty days Harrison County voters will get their chance to show either support or dismay for the Confederate Battle Flag flying on the beach. Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker predicts the November 5 vote will bring the biggest turnout in a judicial election in a long time. Saturday was the last day for residents to register to vote in that election. The line at the Circuit Clerk's office was full of residents wanting to take advantage of their right to vote.

Newly registered voter Pamela R. Slade said "We've been wanting to vote here and we've been lazy for many different reasons but the flag issue brought home a lot of different areas."

Many people admitted that the Confederate Battle Flag was at least part of what drew them to the courthouse.

"It was the flag issue and I would have come here if I had to crawl here or went through snow," said Fred Finney."I don't personally find it a racial issue."

Larry Johnson of Pass Christian disagreed. "It represents oppression, slavery, lynching. Everything that's negative that flag represents for us."

More than 11,00 of Harrison County's 85,563 eligible voters registered in September. That's when Supervisors announced the non-binding referendum on the Battle Flag. Officials at the Circuit Clerks office say they expect Friday and Saturday will bring another 300 to 400 more applications to be processed.

Barbara Ousley's application is one them. "Sometimes it takes a real issue that strikes home to get people to realize that they need vote."

Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker told WLOX news that typically only about 20 percent of Harrison County voters turn out for judicial elections but thanks in part to the controversy over whether the Confederate flag should fly here. She expects a lot more people to cast their ballots on November 5th.

Voter registration was also going on Saturday at an NAACP sponsored political forum and members hear plenty of excuses from people who say voting is not one of their priorities.

NAACP state president Eugene Bryant said he hears "I forgot or It doesn't matter. Every vote counts as a matter a fact I won an election by one vote on the Lawrence County School board. So every vote counts."

Some of the new voters say going to the polls should be important flag or no flag. If you have question about voting precinct, absentee ballots, or need other information you can call the Harrison County Circuit Clerk's office at 865-4005 or 435-8276.

by Danielle Thomas

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