An abnormality in absentee voting during Lowndes County”s November circuit court elections caught the eye of the secretary of state”s office.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann”s 2010 Election Day Activity Report, released Tuesday, notes an “unusually large number of absentee ballots witnessed by six individuals in Lowndes County for the General Election.”
“Of the 19,025 votes cast, 1,263 were absentee ballots. Of the absentee ballots, 350 were witnessed by the same six individuals. Mississippi law does not limit the number of absentee ballot envelopes any one individual may witness.”
Hosemann said Wednesday he”s drawing no conclusions from the unusually high number of ballots witnessed by the six individuals or the fact that the number of absentee ballots cast was approximately double the usual amount cast among a turnout of 19,000 voters. Nor does he believe the report will spur legislators to adjust voting statutes. Rather, he said the reports, which he initiated after his election, are intended to show trends which may require statutory reform.
“When I got here I drafted a bill for the secretary of state to report to the Legislature after every election,” he said. “There were always rumors about the voting process but no real hard information. Nothing to look at and rely on.”
Absentee ballots are regularly inspected by the secretary of state”s office prior to elections to estimate the total turnout, which dictates how many voting machines are employed in a given county.
In the case of Lowndes County, Hosemann personally visited Circuit Clerk Haley Salazar”s office and noticed a large number of absentee ballots witnessed by the same person. It turned out six individuals had witnessed an unusual number of ballots. The two most common names witnessed 167 ballots and 80 ballots, respectively.
Hosemann also visited Clay County, where no such abnormalities were evident.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.