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Some Oktibbeha voters could shift to avoid split ballots


Carl Smith



An effort by the Oktibbeha County Election Commission to clean up split precincts created by prior redistricting efforts will place more than 250 voters in new constable and justice court judge districts ahead of November's special elections. 


Outside of countywide seats -- circuit clerk and sheriff, for example -- Oktibbeha County is split between five districts that each elect a supervisor and election commissioner to represent the area, and is also divided between three districts of constables and justice court judges. 


Under the proposal, District 1's constable and justice court judge area will gain 218 new voters as 100 residents from the North Longview precinct residing in District 3 and 118 from the North Starkville II precinct residing in District 2 will be relocated.  


Additionally, 48 active West Starkville precinct voters will be moved from District 2 to District 3. 


All three moves will eliminate split balloting precincts at their respective locations, which election commissioners say will make ballot preparation cheaper and more efficient.  


"In these split precincts, we have to develop and print another set of ballots for these groups of voters. That takes time and money," said District 1 Election Commissioner Greg Fulgham. "At some of these precincts with a lot of splits, you have a lot of confusion. You'll have voters asking why they're voting for one (constable or justice court judge), while their neighbor across the street is voting for another. This will clear up a lot of that confusion and make it easier for voters and poll workers." 


The plan also calls for the Hickory Grove precinct to absorb the Northeast precinct's 1,155 voters, but those residents will not be shifted into new districts. 


Voters of the Osborn precinct also will vote at the Sixteenth Section Baptist Church Family Life Center, located off Old West Point Road, this November. The church's space provides better accessibility for handicapped residents and improved heating and cooling conditions, election commissioners said. 


Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the matter 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse. 


If approved, county election officials are expected to inform affected voters of the change via mail. 


Only District 1's constable race between former Constable Shank Phelps and challenger Joe Morse will be affected by the voter shift. 


No other constable or justice court judge seats are up for election Nov. 7. 


Election commissioners developed the plan with the assistance of Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS Manager and Senior Analyst Toby Sanford to ensure the removal of the splits and their subsequent voter shifts do not affect the three districts' minority makeup. 


Documents presented to the board of supervisors this week show Oktibbeha County NAACP President Chris Taylor, all three sitting justice court judges and two of the county's three constables -- interim District 1 Constable Mitzi Phelps and District 3 Constable James Lindsay -- have signed off on the plan. 


Deputy Elections Clerk Sheryl Elmore said District 2 Constable Curtis Randle has been by the circuit clerk's office to review the proposal.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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