Presidential primaries are Tuesday

Published 11:56 pm Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mississippi’s primary election to elect each party’s candidate for three offices, including president, takes place Tuesday.

Voters should be aware that while the ballot will contain every candidate who set out to run in this election only two in each party are still in the running for president.

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican candidates John McCain and Ron Paul are the only four candidates still in the presidential running. Paul hinted on Thursday that he soon may wind down his campaign. All other candidates have dropped out but still will be listed on the ballot. Voting for candidates no longer running could be considered a wasted vote.

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Pearl River County Republican Party Chairman Reggie Hanberry said the reason all candidates are still listed is because the sample ballot was loaded into the machines before the other candidates dropped out. Now that several candidates have dropped from the race it is too late to change the ballot on the machines.

Pearl River County Circuit Clerk Vickie Harriel said this election should run more smoothly than past ones because the voting machines no longer will utilize the paper printers while voters are casting ballots.

Removal of the paper printers from the machines will increase reliability by eliminating paper jams. Since the county started using the electronic voting machines a couple years ago, paper jams would either lock the machines up or make the paper trail an unreliable way to keep track of the votes. A paper jam would cause the printer to print over the same section of paper repeatedly until it would be unreadable if it didn’t lock up the machine, Harriel said.

“The printers were our biggest problem,” Hanberry said.

The reasons the printers would jam included damp air and improper paper width or thickness, Hanberry said.

After Jackson county decided to not use the printers they have had fewer problems with the machines. Harriel said Pearl River County’s election commissioners, election officials and the circuit clerks office all asked the board of supervisors to also eliminate their use. The board sent a request to the Justice Department, who ultimately replied that that decision was up to the board.

The voting machines already use two back up systems to keep track of the votes cast, an internal harddrive and the memory cards, Hanberry said.

This, as every, Mississippi primary election will be closed. Voters will have to pick a party on election day and only candidates running under the chosen party will be on the voter’s ballot, Harriel said. The general election on Nov. 4, will be open.

Hanberry said this election will determine which candidate Mississippi’s 43 Republican delegates will vote for. Each states’ number of delegates are determined by the state’s population. Pearl River County has 4.5 delegates, which is also determined by population. Any registered voter interested in becoming a Republican delegate in the county convention can contact the county executive board at P.O. Box 817, Picayune, MS, for more information. The county convention selects people to participate in the state convention who in turn selects participants for the national convention, Hanberry said.

After this primary, each presidential candidate in each party will pick his or her vice president running mate, Hanberry said.

The strength of any election rests on those who work the elections, the poll workers, circuit clerk staff and recently the voting machine manufacturing representative, Hanberry said.

Registration for this election has passed. The deadline was Feb. 9, Harriel said. Absentee ballots should arrive through the mail to the circuit clerk’s office no later than Tuesday at 6 p.m., Hanberry said. During any other election, besides presidential, absentee ballots must be at the Circuit Clerk’s office the day before the election by 5 p.m.

Candidates running for U.S. Senate include Republican Thad Cochran and Democrats Erik R. Fleming and Shawn O’Hara. Republican candidate John McCay III and Democratic incumbent Gene Taylor face off Fourth Congressional District U.S. House of Representatives’ race.