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City election officials say Jackson’s claim of voting issues is wrong

A post by mayoral candidate Shawn Jackson claims 200 people were reportedly denied the right to vote in Tuesday’s party primaries, but the city’s election commissioners said that was not the case.

The post alleges the voters were “denied the right to vote at the precincts they voted at in November (for the presidential election).”

But city and county election commissioners said the precincts used in November were county precincts that don’t always coincide with the precincts the city uses for municipal elections.

“There are two different sets of precincts,” Warren County Election Commission Chairman Sara Dionne said. “There are the county precincts where you vote if it’s a county election, and then there are the municipal precincts where you vote every four years for a municipal election and that’s very confusing to the voters.”

Dionne said the precinct lines for the county and the city were drawn after the 2010 census, and many voters vote in a different precinct for city elections than they do for county elections. If someone doesn’t remember that, Dionne said, it can be frustrating and confusing when it is time to vote in a city election.

The county precinct lines are drawn by the Board of Supervisors and the city lines by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Dionne said, adding there are discussions about aligning city and county precincts so that as many as possible can be used for both sets of elections and eliminate confusion.

Vicksburg Election Commission Chairman Alfreda Gibson said the commissioners received calls from voters who went to the wrong precincts during Tuesday’s election.

“We did get a number of calls, but I would say the calls were less than 50,” Gibson said. “Nobody was denied the right to vote.”

When election officials received a call from a voter or a precinct worker that a voter was not on the precinct rolls, Gibson said, commissioners checked the Statewide Election Management System, or SEMS, a statewide voter database that has a voter’s address and the precincts they vote at for county and city elections. Voters were then directed to the correct municipal precinct.

Gibson said she received a call from Jackson that many people were turned away at precincts where they voted for president.

“She said they should have been allowed to vote by affidavit,” Gibson said. “I told her that in order for them to vote affidavit, they would have to be in the right precinct to vote affidavit.”

Multiple calls to Jackson seeking comment on her claims were not returned.

People are allowed to vote affidavit if their name is not on the voter rolls at their proper precinct.

“If their name is not on the poll book, we can go into SEMS and verify that the person (is registered),” Gibson said. “They may have had a wrong address or their last name may have changed. I can talk to every precinct and call election central to verify where that person is supposed to vote.”

Once the voter’s correct precinct is determined, the voter is sent there, she said.

She said commissioners had problems with the Cedar Grove precinct, which is a county precinct and voters voted there in the presidential election.

Those voters were sent to the Vicksburg Auditorium, which is their city precinct and verified by either a master list at City Hall or through SEMS.

“Because you voted at one place for the county does not mean it will be a polling place for the municipal election,” Gibson said. “For everybody who called, they were given their correct precinct to go to if they were not at the correct one. If they were at the correct precinct but not on the rolls, they were allowed to vote by affidavit ballot at that precinct.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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