Anna Turnage to contest race

Published 3:09 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Council member Anna Turnage said she will contest the race held last Tuesday on the basis that some voters in her precinct may have been denied the right to vote.

A meeting between Turnage, her attorney and the Republican Executive Committee Monday allowed her to submit a letter requesting the right to examine the ballot box for precinct 3. Turnage said she submitted that letter, and after the boxes for the Republican party were certified Monday afternoon, she was allowed to count the votes in the box.

She said the reasoning behind counting the votes was to gather information to present to the Republican Executive Committee at a hearing scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. in the council chambers at Picayune City Hall, 815 N. Beech St.

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Turnage was behind by only two votes in the race against fellow Republican candidate Jason Todd Lane during last week’s election. Initial results provided to the Picayune Item election night reflected that Turnage received 55 votes to Jason Todd Lane’s 59, however the Item had to leave prior to affidavit votes being counted to meet deadline. Turnage said two affidavit votes in that precinct counted later that night were in her favor, reflecting a vote of 59 to 57 in Lane’s favor.

Part of the reason Turnage filed to contest voting is that she has preliminary information that leads her to believe voters in her precinct were listed on the wrong precinct books. Residents who live in precinct 3 were listed on precinct 1 books.

“I want to make sure the true intent of the voters is heard,” Turnage said.

The number of inaccurately listed voters in precinct 3 is unavailable at this time.

If the decision made by the Republican Executive Committee after Monday’s hearing is not satisfactory to Turnage, she has the option to present her case in Circuit Court.

Republican Executive Committee chairman Cecil Watkins said an initial challenge was submitted by Turnage but later rescinded so she could instead submit a request to examine the precinct’s box. Watkins is expecting her lawyer to submit another challenge within the next three days. If Turnage’s lawyer turns in that request, then the hearing will take place on Monday.

“It’s not a full-blown courtroom atmosphere but it’s very near that,” Watkins said.

The format of the hearing will entail the committee asking questions and Turnage’s lawyer submitting the evidence they have collected to the committee, Watkins said.

“Our objective is to make sure we’ve had a fair election in the City of Picayune,” Watkins said.

Voter turnout in precinct 3 appeared to be scant, compared to other areas of the city. Actual percentages were unavailable when the Item called for them Tuesday afternoon. City Clerk Priscilla Daniel said in a phone call earlier this week that voter turnout city wide was about 27 percent. Voter turnout in Gulfport was reported to be 20 percent by the Sun Herald while the Laurel Leader Call reported election day afternoon that city wide, only 11 percent of Laurel’s registered voters made it to the polls.