Voters will choose representatives for federal, regional and local posts on Tues.
By RUSSELL TURNER
Greene County voters will go to the polls Tuesday with several key elected positions up for grabs, including seats in the U.S. Congress, regional judicial posts and two positions on the county school board.
The hottest races locally, at least in terms of visibility among the candidates, appear to be the ones involving judges and school leaders. However, the Congressional races, particularly the Special Election to fill the unexpired term of now-retired senator Thad Cochran, have garnered much of the attention from those who follow elections closely, and according to Greene County Circuit Clerk Cecelia Bounds, seems to be driving an uptick in voter interest.
“Turnout should be average to slightly above average for a mid-term election,” said Bounds. “We have several candidates on the ballot in the judicial races, but it’s the federal races that are driving the turnout.”
“The national political climate and rhetoric can take credit for the renewed, or even new, interest in the election process.”
Due to the retirements of two judges, there are two seats up for grabs in the 16th Chancery Court District this year and two highly-contested races for those posts. There are three judicial seats in both chancery and circuit court district that includes Greene, George and Jackson counties. In the 3-county judicial district, voters across the district get to vote on all three posts for both courts.
In the Chancery Court District, Place 1 Judge Neil Harris is the lone incumbent seeking re-election and he is doing so without a challenger. However, four candidates are looking to replace retiring justice Jaye Bradley in Place 2. They are Robert ‘Bob’ Briggs, Tanya Hasbrouck, Gary L. Roberts and Ashlee Cole Trehern.
Judge Michael Fondren is retiring his post in Place 3. The two candidates hoping to replace Fondren on the bench are Mark A. Maples and Stacie E. Zorn.
The scenario is different on the circuit court side, where two of the three current judges in the 19th District are unopposed in their bids for re-election. Neither Judge Robert P. Krebs or Judge Kathy King Jackson drew opponents and will continue at their posts for the next four-year term. Incumbent Judge Dale Harkey is facing off against challenger Jeffrey ‘Jeff’ Grant Pierce for Place 3.
SAMPLE BALLOT BELOW
Two school board seats up for grabs
With longtime board member Keith Elmore not seeking reelection, voters in Dist. 3 will have a new representative Board of Education beginning in January. Three candidates are looking to replace Elmore on the school board. They are Dorothy Clark, Jennifer Walley and Hayden West.
On the other end of the county, incumbent David Shannon Denmark is facing off with challenger Brandy Benjamin-Sims for the Dist. 4 seat on the BOE.
Unlike elections for county supervisor, school board elections are staggered every two years. Districts 3 and 4 are the only ones on the ballot this year. Dist. 5 will choose their representation on the Board of Education in 2020, while Dist. 1 and Dist. 2 will be decided the 2022 election cycle.
Voters to decide 3 Congressional races
County voters will help decide who fills three positions within the Mississippi congressional delegation, including both U.S. Senate seats.
The most watched of the three is the Special Election battle for the seat formerly held by Cochran. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Bryant after Cochran retired, but is facing a stiff challenge from former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, Democrat Tobey Bernard Bartee and Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
In the state’s other U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Roger Wicker is also facing a stiff challenge from Democratic challenger and state Rep. David Baria, as well as Libertarian Danny Bedwell and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.
Greene County voters also have choices for who will represent them in the House of Representatives. Incumbent Steven Palazzo, a Republican, will face off with Democrat Jeramey Anderson and Reform Party candidate Lajena Sheets in an effort to keep his job representing the Fourth Congressional District.
Absentee voting open through Sat.
Absentee voting will continue for the election through this Saturday. Bounds says voters eligible to vote by absentee can do so at her office in the courthouse through the rest of this week during regular business hours and Saturday until noon.
New polling places, equipment and other notes
Since the June primaries, one county polling place has been moved to better accommodate disabled voters and comply with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). Voters in the Vernal Precinct will now vote at the Grace United Methodist Church at the intersection of Vernal River Road and U.S. 98.
All Mississippi residents are now able to register or update their voter registration when renewing or applying for a driver’s license. Bounds called this a useful tool in keeping county voter rolls current and accurate as the updates are imported electronically. Voters who have made changes need to refer to the new voter registration card they should have received to find their voting precinct.
“We also encourage voters to check their voter registration prior to election day,” Bounds said. “This can be done by using the Polling Place Locator tool from the Secretary of State’s website, or by contacting the circuit clerk’s office.”
“While no changes can be made to a person’s voter registration and subsequent polling place this close to the election, it could alleviate some confusion on election day.”
All voters must present a valid government-issued photo identification prior to voting. Voters without any form of government-issued photo ID may contact the circuit clerk’s office to obtain a free Mississippi Voter Identification Card.
Finally, Greene County election personnel will be using new technology in this election. Funding from the Help Mississippi Vote fund paid for electronic poll pads to replace the old poll books and issue voter cards on election day.
“Most voters who present a Mississippi driver’s license will have their license scanned to locate them in the poll pad and have the correct ballot programmed for them,” Bounds added. “While the initial process may be slow at first, we feel confident this new equipment will allow poll workers to issue ballots more efficiently and eliminate confusion with split precincts.”
Run-off election scenarios
There is potential to have run-off elections in two of the races on Tuesday’s ballots. Should no candidate receive 50 percent plus one vote in the Special Senate race or the Chancery Court Place 2 race, the top two vote winners will be in a run-off election scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27. In all other races on this ballot, including school board, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes will be the winner. If a run-off is required, absentee voting will begin no later than Nov. 13.