Republicans claim election failures in Leflore Co.

Published 12:46 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Mississippi Republican Party claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the Leflore County Election Commission and a Greenwood poll manager failed to follow state election laws and to ensure the general election was fair.

State GOP Chairman Brad White said the party has evidence and eye witness reports that show the commission and precinct manager Gail Griggs failed to prevent election irregularities.

Party officials allege that, among other things, authorized poll watchers were prohibited from observing the Nov. 4 election and that assistance was offered to voters who did not request help. The lawsuit seeks a Leflore County Circuit Court order banning such action in the future.

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Also, the GOP said some people were instructed on which candidates should receive their vote.

White said the lawsuit has statewide implications because it can set a precedent if similar activity occurs in future elections.

“What this does for us is it gives us more teeth. The next election, if these actions are repeated, we can take that order to the sheriff or the police chief and say not only are they violating the law, but they’re violating a court order,” White said.

Griggs’ attorney, Willie Perkins of Greenwood, said his client has filed an answer to the complaint, denying any wrongdoing.

“My client is of the position this is a moot issue,” Perkins said Tuesday. “The election has passed. There’s nothing that can be ordered now that will fix a so-called alleged problem that occurred on Nov. 4.”

Joyce Chiles, the attorney for the Leflore County Board of Supervisors, said she had not seen the lawsuit. Chiles also said it’s unclear whether she would represent the elections commission because the board may decide to hire outside counsel.

White said the party’s complaints are corroborated in a report compiled by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Hosemann said one of his employees witnessed the activity. Her account is included in the report that will be forwarded to Attorney General Jim Hood, Hosemann said.

Hosemann said his office welcomes any clarification on the role of poll workers. He said poll workers have the authority to challenge votes, but they cannot manage precincts. The state’s 2,000 voting precincts are all managed differently, he said.