For those who act like election security is not necessary in Mississippi, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann released a serious report on the 2009 municipal elections. There is a certain irony that one municipality issued a precinct “crime scene” tape to mark off the 150 foot boundary for campaigning around the poll.
Hosemann said, ““We have detailed serious elections issues and named specific locations throughout the State within the Municipal Elections Report. Obviously, abuses exist in the elections process. Only through public knowledge can we combat this growing problem. In the end, voters must establish the credibility of the election system in their own precinct.”
The Laurel Leader Call notes the report’s emphasis on absentee ballots:
Hosemann said the number of absentee ballots placed were “horrific” in some cities.
According to the report, Macon had 541 absentee votes out of a total of 1,384 votes, roughly 39.4 percent. Other municipalities with high absentee ballot rates included Charleston (22.74 percent), West Point (19 percent), Sardis (18.2 percent) and Ripley (14.4 percent). By comparison, Jackson, the state’s largest municipality, only had 381 absentee votes out of a total of 33,800 votes cast for a rate of 1.17 percent.
And the Neshoba Democrat says:
Hosemann reported allegations that the New Albany city clerk directed absentee voters on whom to cast their ballots and used law enforcement to instruct voters to cast absentee ballots. Another allegation said absentee ballots were opened early and a police officer took the ballot back to a voter with instructions to cast the ballot for a different candidate.
Hosemann also noted allegations in Macon that voters received absentee ballots without requesting them, only to have the city clerk and a candidate show up at their homes and mark the ballot for them.
And the Greenwood Commonwealth chides a state Senator – who is also a Greenwood city councilman – for “chronic inability to acknowledge his mistakes.”
Jordan was observed, according to the report, handing out campaign material less than 150 feet from his Ward 6 precinct — a violation of the election laws. Even after being reprimanded, the report says, for that conduct by a representative from the state attorney general’s office, Jordan continued to approach voters within that 150-feet perimeter — a violation that was observed not only by the secretary of state’s watchers but also by a Commonwealth reporter.
Jordan, a Democrat, has tried to deflect the criticism by accusing Hosemann and the attorney general’s office of racial bias in where they set up observers. He claims that only black precincts were targeted for such scrutiny.
That claim doesn’t hold water. Jordan was caught not because Jordan is black, but because Jordan was doing wrong. Both an agency headed by a Republican (Hosemann) and one headed by a Democrat (Attorney General Jim Hood) saw it. So did this newspaper.
As a state senator and city councilman for more than two decades, he knows well what the election rules are. He willfully decided to ignore them.
That’s the story, pure and simple.
All this other talk of racism is just a smokescreen. It reflects Jordan’s chronic inability to acknowledge his mistakes.
No wonder there is little will in the legislature to clean up Mississippi election laws. Here is a case where one legislator is allegedly flaunting them for his own political advantage. In addition to passing election reforms, the state Senate should consider a rebuke of Jordan for his disregard of fair elections.