High turnout and long lines were the scene at many polling precincts Tuesday as Mississippi voters converged on polling precincts to decide the presidential race and consequential congressional and state judicial races.
“By and large, great numbers of Mississippians are coming out to vote,” said Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Hosemann. “We’re seeing long lines that are progressing quickly. We would like to vote over a million today, and we very well might get that.”
Hosemann chronicled minor problems at a handful of precincts Tuesday, but Secretary of State spokeswoman Laura Rupp Smith said Tuesday afternoon there were “no major problems.”
At least one voter who spoke to Mississippi Today disagrees. At about 7:45 a.m., Elizabeth Riley Dickson Gavney was at her polling location at the Flowood library. The touchscreen machine registered her vote for president and state Supreme Court judge, but locked when she attempted to pick her preferred candidate in the 3rd Congressional District.
Another voter ahead of her in line ran into a similar issue. Poll workers suggested she press the button to vote for incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, which they thought might unlock and reset the machine; afterwards, she would be able to change her vote to her candidate.
“I don’t think this is OK. I’m not comfortable pressing that button,” Gavney told the poll worker.
Gavney said poll workers told her to pick a different candidate or she would have to wait until they could contact a technician. She tried to called the office of Rankin County Circuit Clerk Becky Boyd, but no one answered.
Boyd told Mississippi Today on Tuesday afternoon she was unfamiliar with Gavney’s issue, but it would need to be addressed by the county’s information technology department. Boyd said that turnout has been heavy.
“We are extremely busy right now,” Boyd said.
In his late morning update, Hosemann noted two problems reported to his office. In Jackson County, some electronic poll books were not operational at 7 a.m. and the precinct did not have paper back-ups, which delayed some voters.
In addition, machines at the Ridgeland Recreational Center polling place, in Madison County, were not functioning when voting started at 7 a.m. Voters were able to vote by paper until the machines were fixed by late morning.
An ID scanner at the Presidential Hills precinct in northwest Jackson was not working early in the day, and a voting machine malfunctioned at the Church of Christ on Hanging Moss Road. Both problems were rectified quickly, Hinds County election officials said Tuesday afternoon.
Gavney reported her issue as well as several others she observed at the polling place to the U.S. Department of Justice; a representative called back to say they would investigate. She also contacted the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and took a photo of the serial number on the electronic voting machine.
“It wasn’t a problem of prejudice against one party of the order,” Gavney said. “I don’t think anyone had malice or was intentionally trying to intimidate (voters). I think it was lack of training, lack of resources and just lack of education.”
Few choices, few surprises expected
Mississippi ballots are relatively short this year. Voters can choose among seven presidential tickets, including Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump is expected to handily carry the majority of the popular vote.
U.S. House races will be decided Tuesday, though none of the four incumbents – Rep. Trent Kelly, Rep. Gregg Harper, Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Steven Palazzo – are expected to lose.
Three state Supreme Court races are perhaps the most heated of the day.
In the most expensive race in the state, the central district Supreme Court contest, incumbent Justice Jim Kitchens faces a stiff challenge from Court of Appeals Judge Kenny Griffis. In the Southern district, incumbent Justice Dawn Beam faces McComb attorney Michael T. Shareef.
A Northern district Supreme Court seat was vacated by Justice Ann Lamar, and attorneys John Brady and Steve Crampton are facing circuit judges Bobby Chamberlin and James ‘Jim’ Kitchens Jr.
Depending on where you live, there might be some other local county-wide judicial and administrative races on your ballot.