Saturday hours available for absentee voting

Staff Writer

Interest in the Nov. 6 general election slowly is building if absentee voting numbers are any indication.

And to make that process more convenient for the elderly, people who have to be out of town, or people who may be held up at work, Circuit Court Clerk offices across the state will be open the next two Saturday mornings for absentee voting to supplement normal business hours.

The offices will be open from 8 a.m. until noon Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. Absentee ballots can be cast at the clerk’s office in the county courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday as well.

Through Tuesday, almost 200 people had voted absentee in Clay County. After a slow start, those numbers have increased steadily, election workers say.

At the current pace, the numbers could exceed the 2014 general election when 452 people voted absentee in the county.

That was the last time the county had a similar election.

Those numbers are far below 2016 and 2015. In the 2016 presidential election, 1,124 absentee ballots were cast. In the primaries for the local office elections in 2015, 852 people voted absentee.

This year, voters have more contested decisions to make with three judgeships, two U.S. Senate seats, and a U.S. House race.

Clay County currently has 13,694 registered voters in 13 precincts.

Not surprisingly, the largest precincts are in and around West Point. The largest is West-West Point with 1,861 registered voters. North West Point has 1,802, East-West Point has 1,769, South-West Point has 1,625 and Central-West Point 1,118.

The largest precinct outside the city is Siloam with 1,066 registered voters.

With 393 voters, Tibbee is the smallest precinct with Cairo not far behind at 424.

Clay County voters will cast ballots in two contested U.S. Senate races, the First District congressional race and two different Chancery Court districts, depending on where the voter lives.

Three unopposed incumbent Circuit Court judges also will be on the ballot as will two unopposed incumbent members of the West Point Consolidated School District board.

For information or to request an absentee ballot, contact the Circuit Court Clerk's office at (662)-494-8228.

Having two Senate races on the ballot at the same time is unusual because the six-year terms usually are staggered.

In one Senate race, incumbent Republican Roger Wicker is challenged by Democrat David Baria, Libertarian Danny Bedwell and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara for a six-year term.

In the other race, four candidates are running in a non-partisan race to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down earlier this year for health reasons.

The winner will have to run again in 2020.

The candidates are Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith, the former state Agriculture and Commerce commissioner who was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant, conservative Republican state senator Chris McDaniel, former Democratic congressman Mike Espy and Gautier, Miss., Democrat Tobey Bartee.

Unlike the other Senate race, this special election requires the winner to get 50 percent of the vote. If not, the top two vote getters will meet in a Nov. 27 runoff.

In the congressional race, incumbent Republican Trent Kelly is challenged by Democrat Randy Wadkins, an Ole Miss professor, and Reform candidate Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill.

Besides the Senate races, the two Chancery Court races likely will generate the most voter attention as the Nov. 6 date nears. The races mark the first time all three seats in a judicial district have been open at the same time. The three incumbents, Jim Davidson and Dorothy Colom of Columbus and Ken Burns of Chickasaw County all are not seeking re-election this year, leaving with more than 50 years of experience on the bench.

Columbus attorneys Gary Goodwin, Carrie Jourdan and Joe Studdard are vying for for Chancery Court seat 14-2, currently held by Davidson.

The district is elected by residents of part of Lowndes County and the Cedar Bluff, Central West Point, East West Point, Siloam, South West Point and Vinton precincts in Clay County.

If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two will meet in the Nov. 27 runoff.

Oktibbeha County Youth Court Judge Paula Drungole-Ellis and Starkville attorney and Alderman Roy Perkins are vying for the Chancery Court 14-3 seat currently held by Colom, who as a black woman pioneered legal circles by becoming a lawyer and judge.

That seat is elected by voters in all or part of Noxubee, Lowndes, Oktibbeha and the Cairo, Caradine, North West Point, Pheba, Pine Bluff Tibbee Union Star and West West Point precincts in Clay County.

While the Chancery Court judges are elected by districts, they hear cases throughout the entire district which includes Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Noxubee, Chickasaw and Webster counties.

In the school board races, Gene Brown in District 1 and Tommy Coleman in District 2 are unopposed for re-election.

In the Circuit Court judgeships, Jim Kitchens, Lee Howard and Lee Coleman all are unopposed.