Chancery Clerk race headed for run-off
Lott, Overby to face off in three weeks
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 1:00 PM
Ronny Lott and David Overby are headed to a June 24 run-off in the race to become the county's next Chancery Clerk.
Voters who braved the polls on Tuesday must have seen their shadows, because it’s three more weeks of campaign season to settle two primary races — including a U.S. Senate seat and Madison County’s Chancery Clerk.
Lott took roughly 40.12 percent of the 14,290 votes cast in Tuesday's special election to fill a vacant seat, with Overby capturing 35.5 percent.
Madison Deputy Tax Assessor Irby Ford, who campaigned on his experience, finished third with just over 24 percent of the vote.
"Today was a success," Lott, Madison County's District 2 Supervisor, said shortly after unofficial results had been distributed at the Madison County Courthouse on Tuesday night. "The people of Madison County have spoken. I want to thank them for supporting our message of conservative leadership."
Overby also spent Tuesday night at the courthouse, and said he's excited to be in the runoff and confident that his record as the most experienced candidate will lead to a victory in three weeks.
"We're going to continue to get our message out there," Overby said. "You know, I actually have qualifications to do this job, and that's what it's all about. It's not about trying to spread lies and smear people. That's bad. People are tired of that. I'm going to continue to run my positive campaign."
Ford made an appearance at the courthouse Tuesday night, but left before the final results were in and could not be reached by phone Wednesday morning.
The two candidates are vying for the position vacated by Arthur Johnston last year.
In a race that had become increasingly negative headed into Tuesday's vote, Lott's 40 percent showed that he had made inroads outside of his perceived stronghold in the city of Madison.
"I think people realized that I'm the only candidate who has proved he can work with the board of supervisors," Lott said. "That is crucial to the survival of this office. If you can't get along with the supervisors, you will be totally ineffective as chancery clerk. They can take away every benefit that's offered to this office."
Overby, also confident, said he believes he's in a great position to win the race, despite receiving fewer votes than Lott on Tuesday.
"We're right where we expected to be and we're right where we wanted to be - We're in the runoff," he said. "We're excited to be here, we're happy to be here and we are going to win."
Of the six precincts visited by Journal reporters on Tuesday reported light but steady turnout, and the number of cards cast verified that notion. Of the 81,609 registered voters of Madison County, just 17,656 (roughly 21.6 percent) went to the polls Tuesday.
The turnout was nearly 10,000 votes shy of the total number of votes in the 2012 general election, a presidential election year, and less than half of the 32,481 who voted in the 2011 general election, when a personhood amendment and a gubernatorial race were on the line.
Despite the lower number of voters, there was some confusion on voting locations and at least one incident at Ridgeland's fourth voting precinct, which casts ballots at the Mark Apartments Clubhouse.
That precinct did not have the Democrat poll book until 9:15 a.m. according to poll worker Bernadette Russell, who had to tell three Democratic voters that they could vote by paper or affidavit. All those voters declined and left.
Madison County Election Commissioner Timothy Jenkins said the Democratic Party is responsible for putting poll books in the bags. Madison County Democratic Party Chair Howard Brown said that either the clerk's office or the election commission is responsible. But he said it is the Democratic Party 's responsibility to verify the books are there.
The precinct reported the missing book quickly, although no one gave a time. And the Democratic Party was able to pick up the poll book from the clerk's office and deliver it to the precinct.
"It's regrettable that a book was left out," Jenkins said. "But it's rectified now. Accidents happen."
Brown said he regretted that it happened and took responsibility as the party's chairman.
Also, workers at several precincts reported a high number of voters who reported to the wrong polling location.
At Victory Christian Community Center on Old Canton Road, poll workers reported that nearly half of all the voters who walked through the doors were sent to alternate polling places due to the redrawing of voting precinct lines.
One of those voters was Chris Gressett of Ridgeland, who was sent to First Methodist Church on West Jackson Street. He had just gotten off work and said he'd do what he had to in order to cast his ballot.
"I've voted here before," Gressett said. "I guess they've redrawn the lines."
Lines were redrawn in 2013 and voters received cards in the mail, but those listed two locations, one for city elections and one for county elections.
The good news from Tuesday's election was that Madison County, and the state of Mississippi, apparently passed the voter I.D. test with flying colors. Madison poll workers reported that just 18 voters had to vote by affidavit due to lack of identification - four Republican voters and 14 Democrats.
Similarly, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said fears of voter suppression due to the new law, which requires voters to show government-issued identification at the polls, never materialized Tuesday.
"We have devoted countless hours of time and training to election officials across the state," a written statement from Hosemann's office said. "We believe Mississippians were ready to put this issue behind us. It was time for us to close this chapter in our history, and we have done so today."