Attorney Lydia Quarles, left, argues the accuracy of an affidavit voter’s residence claim while comparing her voter registration form. Quarles’ client, incumbent Sandra Sistrunk, tied challenger Lisa Wynn, right, after six affidavit ballots were counted Monday. Voters will head back to the polls May 21 to decide the highly contested race. Photo by: Carl Smith/Dispatch Staff
May 14, 2013 10:17:31 AM
Six additional votes were not enough to separate Sandra Sistrunk and her challenger, Lisa Wynn, for the remaining unfilled Starkville alderman seat.
The two candidates tied at 181 votes after the remaining Ward 2 affidavits were processed, validated and counted Monday. Sistrunk, the incumbent, and Wynn are now shifting back to campaign mode after city officials announced a runoff election will be held Tuesday.
After Monday's count, Wynn hinted she would ask to examine ballot boxes Thursday. Candidates must provide three-day notice following certification to election officials and their challengers for such a review. Sistrunk's legal representatives issued the city such a notice, but the sitting Ward 2 alderman said Wynn had not informed her of an upcoming challenge.
Starkville certified Monday's results, and candidates now have 12 days to contest the election.
Sistrunk entered Monday with a 179-177 lead over her opponent. Poll workers collected 17 affidavit ballots during last week's primary, but that number was whittled down to 11 Wednesday after Sistrunk's attorney, Lydia Quarles, lodged numerous complaints on numerous incomplete or inaccurate affidavits.
Quarles again Monday argued the validity of affidavit ballots and the numerous issues surrounding them, including voters' failure to record residency changes outside of 30 days of the primary, missing names from the poll books and inaccurate information recorded on the documents.
Mississippi Code states affidavits must include a voter's complete name, all required addresses and telephone numbers; a statement from the voter saying he or she believes he is registered to vote in the jurisdiction where he or she offers the vote; the voter's signature; and the signature of the poll manager at the precinct where the vote is collected.
The three-person Starkville Municipal Democratic Executive Committee accepted five of the six ballots with split 2-1 votes Monday.
Wynn took special issue with the rejected ballot of an armed forces servicewoman who, she said, is a lifelong Ward 2 resident but was left off the poll books because of redistricting. That voter was present during Monday's processing session and said she received bad instructions from the poll workers last Tuesday.
Wynn said she contacted the Secretary of State's office Monday about the rejected affidavit but did not confirm if she would challenge the SMDEC's decision.
Two Ward 4 affidavits were rejected last week after poll workers initialed the documents instead of signing them.
"Injustice was served to her because her ballot was rejected," she said.
Wynn collected a majority of the affidavit ballots, four, but Sistrunk received the final two votes during the count.
Both Sistrunk and Wynn said they would rest before hitting the campaign trail again.
"We didn't know how those voters voted. We wanted to make sure those were ballots that should have been accepted to protect the election process," Sistrunk said. "I didn't know what to expect today. I'm just at a loss for where we are right now."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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