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Parties, organizations pushing voters to the polls

Mississippians across the state have received a telephone call from former President Bill Clinton, who’s urging them to go to the polls Tuesday and support Democratic candidates.

The automated call is part of the Democratic Party’s last-minute effort to pump up enthusiasm for Tuesday’s general election, which is expected to produce a lackluster turnout as there are few competitive congressional races on the ballot.

President Clinton reminded voters that U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson and Gene Taylor, both D-Miss., are seeking re-election. His message also supported Erik Fleming, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Keelan Sanders, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said members also are canvassing in several counties, including Hinds, Jones, Lauderdale, and Madison.

“We just give them a list of Democratic candidates,” Sanders said. “We’ve had people go door-to-door with door hangers and push cards.”

Secretary of State Eric Clark predicted about 650,000 of the state’s more than 2 million registered voters will cast ballots on Tuesday.

Turnout could be further hampered by the probability of rain in some parts of the state.

Sanders said boosting turnout would be key to Democrats winning their races.

The Mississippi Republican Party has spent the past couple of days canvassing different parts of the state in support of Lott and Yvonne Brown, who is challenging Thompson in the 2nd District, said Nathan Wells, the state GOP’s director of political affairs.

Wells said the party is confident Lott will easily win his race against Fleming, a state lawmaker from Clinton. Also in the Senate race is Harold Taylor, a libertarian.

“Our big uphill battle is Yvonne Brown against Bennie Thompson. She needs as much help as she can get and that’s what we’re here for,” Wells said.

Brown, a two-term mayor of Tchula, is a black Republican hoping to unseat Thompson in a predominantly black, heavily Democratic district.

Brown, who was working the Jackson area Monday, said U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona had done a radio ad in support of her campaign “and everybody is excited about that.”

One of her greatest concerns is voter apathy.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Well, she’s the challenger and doesn’t have a chance,” Brown said. “I’m saying if the voters go on values, voice and conviction, I will be the new representative.”

In the other congressional races, Taylor is being challenged in the 4th District by Republican Randy McDonnell, a relative unknown. First District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., will face Democrat Ken Hurt and 3rd District U.S. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., will face independent Jim Giles and Reform Party candidate Lamonica Magee.

There are also judicial races and four special legislative elections on Tuesday.

The NAACP is doing its part to promote voter turnout, though the organization does not support any political party or candidate, said state president Derrick Johnson.

The NAACP’s “Arrive with Five” campaign encourages voters to take at least five other people to the polls with them. It is one of several ways the organization encourages voter participation, including providing transportation to the polls.

The League of Women Voters will operate a hot line in the Jackson metropolitan area, providing information about voting precincts and keeping track of complaints at the polls.

Fran Leber, a league board member, said the group also distributed leaflets designed to simplify the voting process. The leaflets advise voters to bring identification to the polls and to request assistance from a poll worker, if needed.