Text of statement by Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry
Friday, June 27, 2014 8:00 AM
Statement of Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry:
Hinds County Republican Chairman Pete Perry
"Yesterday afternoon, someone claiming to represent the Mississippi State Tea Party held a press conference in this Courthouse to make some careless accusations about the voting in Hinds County for the Republican nomination for United States Senate. This morning, I'd like to provide some facts in response.
First of all, some background on the election mechanics in Hinds County:
Hinds County has 118 precincts each of which has 3 to 5 poll workers who are hired by the County Republican Executive Committee and are paid $100 for a 14 to 15 hour day. Many of the 500 or so Hinds County citizens who work as poll workers have been working the same ballot boxes for years. They take pride in their work, their involvement with the community, and their participation in the democratic process. I am certain that on June 24th, there were McDaniel supporters, Cochran supporters, and even the rare undecided voter working as poll workers in Hinds County.
I provide this background on the poll workers because of their essential role in this process. When each voter comes to the polling station, the poll workers check the registration books and the voter's identification before providing them a ballot. If there is a challenge to a voter's eligibility by a poll watcher from a campaign, the poll workers rule on their eligibility or provide an affidavit ballot to the voter. After the polls close, at each precinct, the poll workers download the election results, tally the absentee ballots for the precinct, and then return everything to the Courthouse where their results are added to the others.
To help the poll workers navigate the election legalities and the ever- changing technology of the voting machines, we have training classes for the poll workers. For this election cycle, we conducted more than two dozen classes to train these workers. Prior to the June 24th run-off, we had additional classes to address the upcoming runoff election. One of the key subjects of this supplemental training was that for the run-off, nobody that voted in the June 3rd Democrat primary could vote in the June 24th Republican run-off. Additional material was given to all poll workers addressing this specific issue.
To help prevent mistakes, the Republican and Democrat parties switch the poll books for each precinct for a run-off. Since we don't register by political party in Mississippi, the poll books list all voters. The theory of switching the poll books is that if a Republican poll worker is using the book that was used by the Democrats in the first election, then when a voter comes to vote in the Republican run-off, the poll worker can quickly see if the voter's name is checked as having voted in the first Democrat primary.
As I understand it, the complaint by the representative of the Tea Party yesterday was that 'they had found over 800 instances of June 3 voters in the Democrat primary who illegally voted in the June 24 runoff election.'
Instead of making wild accusations which stir up social media with cries of fraud and corruption, it would be much better for all involved Ð the voters, the candidates, the 500 poll workers in Hinds County Ð if we let facts enter into the conversation. And the facts are that their claims are wildly exaggerated. As a committee, we are still in the process of going through the election results before they can be certified, but this morning we can discuss some of the specific examples that were raised yesterday.
As an example in Precinct 14, the Fondren Presbyterian Church precinct, the numbers cited by the McDaniel campaign yesterday included 192 'illegal votes' Ð people that they claimed had voted in the Democrat primary on June 3rd but then voted in the Republican run-off. That is impossible. According to the certified results of the June 3rd Democrat primary, there were only 37 total Democrat primary voters at that particular precinct. I am providing you with a redacted copy of a sample page from the poll books used at that precinct.
A simple look at this page shows what Ms. Overscheld is claiming as illegal votes. This is nothing more than an instance where a poll worker started marking an individual's vote in the June 3rd column, rather than in the June 24th column. At some point the worker realized his or her mistake and corrected it Ð crossing out the 'voted' notation in the June 3rd column and moving it to its proper place. That is the correct procedure for the managers Ð but the McDaniel campaign is claiming that this is an example of illegal votes.
Ms. Overscheld was aware of this and other similar instances when she made her statement yesterday, but continued with her charade trying to provide known inflated numbers. In fact, when she made her statement yesterday, she had inflated their own numbers to make it appear to be worse than they had actually found. Later that night, the candidate himself again inflated the numbers to now being 'over 1000.' Elections are about specifics, not generalities. We count and account for each and every vote; we do not inflate or deflate numbers for campaign purposes.
We have not gone through every voter accused yesterday by Ms. Oversheld but we will do so before we complete our canvass of all the election matters. I am confident that as we continue to look at the specific cases, this bogus number cited yesterday will be reduced significantly.
Instead of crying fraud or illegality or corruption Ð rhetoric that is designated to inflame passions Ð it would be helpful if those making wild accusations would consider other possibilities.
For example, one of the 800 plus 'illegal voters' accused yesterday was cast by a lady who attempted to vote in the Pinehaven precinct. She came to vote in the Republican primary on June 24th and the poll worker checked the poll book and saw that she was marked as having voted in the Democrat primary on June 3rd so the poll worker denied her a ballot. One problem though Ð she was in the hospital on June 3rd. She had a colonoscopy that day and did not vote. No corruption, no fraud, just a simple human mistake. A clerical error was made by a Democrat poll worker on June 3rd.
Those mistakes happen. And I'm sure that some mistakes happened on Tuesday in the Republican primary. I'm sure that there were mistakes in Hinds County, Jones County and every one of the 82 counties in the State, and that both candidates were affected positively and negatively. That's what happens, when in Hinds County alone, 500 one-day workers Ð moreso volunteers than professionals Ð process and tally the 25,000 voters on election day.
I am very pleased with how the election went in Hinds County on Tuesday. The more than 500 people involved with running the election operated in a professional manner and helped participate in a record voter turnout. As a lifelong Republican, it is very gratifying to me personally to see so many new voters in the Republican primary not just in Hinds County but across the state."