Noxubee vote overseer says some mischief in Democrats’ runoff corrected

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, October 6, 2007

The man appointed to oversee elections in Noxubee County has reported to a federal judge that there were minor problems, quickly corrected, during the Sept. 18 local Democratic Party runoffs.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee appointed former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson to oversee the elections.

In August, Lee banned Noxubee County Democratic Chairman Ike Brown from running party primaries and tapped Anderson to ensure whites’ voting rights aren’t violated.

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The judge agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that Brown and the county Democratic Party he’s led since 2000 had committed election fraud and discrimination to keep whites out of county government.

Lee ordered Brown to stay out of Noxubee County elections — except to vote — unless asked to participate by Anderson.

In his report to Lee this week, Anderson said there were “isolated incidents of misconduct,” but they were quickly “rectified.”

Anderson told The Commercial Dispatch newspaper in Columbus that he would not answer questions about his report to the federal judge.

In his written report for Lee, Anderson said, “to my knowledge,” Brown followed the court order to refrain from “coordinating any election activities on election day.”

Brown did show up at the Noxubee County Courthouse while votes were being counted, but Anderson’s report indicated that was not a breach of Lee’s order.

The three black incumbents in the Democratic runoffs defeated white challengers: Albert Walker won against Tiny Heard for sheriff; Mary Shelton won against Pam Norris for chancery clerk; Bernard Brooks won against Johnny Heard for a county supervisor post.

Tiny Heard said he accepted the results and praised Anderson’s work as the election administrator.

“The election went as smooth as it could be,” said the defeated sheriff candidate, who had cited major grievances in the past about elections run by Brown.

Lee appointed Anderson to supervise the county’s Democratic Party elections through 2011, when the next election for county and statewide offices take place. In his report, Anderson noted questions have been raised about whether Lee’s order applies to next year’s presidential and congressional primary elections.

Anderson became the first black to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court when he was appointed in 1985. He was a justice until 1991. He’s now a partner in the Jackson office of the Phelps Dunbar law firm.