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Voters trek to polls in important presidential election on Tuesday

Published 2:32pm Monday, November 5, 2012

The last chance to cast an absentee ballot in Tuesday’s upcoming presidential election is noon today (Saturday) at both the courthouse in Poplarville and Chimney Square county government office complex in Picayune, said Pearl River County Circuit Court Clerk Vicki Hariel. Both will be open to noon today.

Pearl River County voters will trek to the polls on Tuesday to cast a ballot in what political pundits are calling one of the most important presidential elections in U.S. history. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., said Hariel. A record turnout is expected in Pearl River County.

Up for re-election is Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama, who is challenged by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but Pearl River County voters also will cast ballots for a U.S. senator, a U.S. congressman and a state supreme court justice on Tuesday.

On the local level, there are four uncontested races for election commissioner, and two contested races, one for election commissioner and the other for the South East District constable post.

There’s a sample ballot on page 8A in today’s Picayune Item.

On Tuesday, voters will find a wide range of candidates, stretching over the entire political spectrum, running for president. Voters will have a choice between six sets of candidates on the presidential section of the ballot.

Besides Obama and Romney, other candidates are: Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party; Gary Johnson, Libertarian; Jill Stein, Green, and Barbara Dale Washer, Reform Party.

Goode is a former U.S. Congressman from Virginia; Johnson, former New Mexico governor; Stein, a physician who is a political activist; and Washer is a Mississippi native who recently ran unsuccessfully for Mississippi Insurance Commissioner. Stein has been arrested twice during the campaign, but the mainstream press has ignored her. The four third party candidates were excluded from the Presidential debates and have gotten little press coverage, but each has a website voters can go to and read up on them.

The Constitution Party espouses returning to the founding constitutional principles; the Libertarian Party’s motto is “maximum freedom, minimum government;” the Green Party pushes environmental issues and is anti-military, and the Reform Party was founded by Ross Perot. More can be found out about the parties by going on-line.

In the race for one of two positions for U.S. senator from Mississippi, incumbent Republican Sen. Roger F. Wicker faces three challengers: Democrat Albert N. Gore, Jr., Constitution Party candidate Thomas Cramer, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara. Mississippi’s other U.S. senator, Thad Cochran, is not up for re-election.

Gore, distant kin to former Vice President Al Gore, is the former head of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Executive Committee and a decorated Vietnam War veteran; Cramer is a Tea Party activist from Vancleave who has been Wicker’s staunchest critic, and O’Hara is a perennial candidate for governor and for mayor of Hattiesburg, known for his tough stance on abortion. He once said having an abortion was giving God the “middle finger.” Wicker is expected to be a shoo-in. He’s up for his first full six-year term. Once in office, a Mississippi U.S. senator is seldom turned out of office.

In the race for 4th District congressmen, incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Republican from Biloxi, is up for his first re-election after defeating former veteran Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis in November 2010.

Palazzo rode an anti-establishment wave into office, and in the last two years has piled up a high favorability rating among voters in his fourth district. U.S. representatives stand for re-election every two years and U.S. senators every six.

Palazzo is expected to have no trouble getting re-elected, facing Democrat Matt Moore, a former businessman and Gulf Coast Community College student; Reform Party candidate Robert W. Claunch of Diamondhead; and Libertarian Ron Williams, who has been very outspoken, and is a former Republican candidate for governor and a Moss Point businessman.

In the nonpartisan race for District 2 (The Southern District), Position 3, State Supreme Court Justice, incumbent Justice Mike Randolph is given the edge over challenger Talmadge Braddock, a successful Hattiesburg attorney. Both live in Hattiesburg and both have practiced law there. State law sets down stringent guidelines on how Supreme Court justices can campaign for office, and their campaigns are restricted by state law. District 2 is made up of 27 South Mississippi counties, mainly south of Meridian. Randolph is one of nine justices on the state high court.

In local county races on the ballot, four election commissioner posts are unchallenged, while in the District 2 post Democrat Brenda Nirenberg is challenging incumbent Margaret Woodson. The other four commissioners are unopposed: District 1 Virgie Hart Bolton, District 3 Tommy Breland, District 4 Reggie W. Hanberry, and District 5 Harold J. Blappert, Jr. One election commissioner from each supervisor’s district is elected to make up the five-member commission, which manages county elections.

In the race for constable, Ray Merle Bennett is trying to get his old post back after unsuccessfully running for a justice court judge’s post. Bennett served as constable of the South East district for 12 years before not running for the post again and instead running for a justice court judge’s post.

Danny Lowery won Bennett’s South East constable post, but Lowery resigned in February, pointing to conflicts with his wrecker service and bail bonding agency. Supervisors then appointed Justin Faia to the fill Lowery’s unexpired term until a special election, which is what is taking place on Tuesday for that post, was held. Faia then decided to run for the post in his own right. Faia points to his extensive law enforcement experience and so does Bennett. There are three constable posts in the county, and only the South East is up for election because of Lowery’s resignation.

Those with questions concerning the election can call the circuit clerk’s office for more information. In addition, most of the candidates have a website, or stories about them, which can be found for more information with a personal computer and an Internet connection.

If for any reason a person is not allowed to vote, he or she can request an affidavit ballot, and the poll worker is required, by law, to allow that voter to vote. Such votes will be adjudicated later and, if valid, counted.

Voters also are reminded that while Mississippi passed a Voter ID law last year, it is not in effect for Tuesday’s election because it is still being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department. The only exception will be for first-time voters who will need some form of simple ID, such as a driver’s license.

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