Poll Watchers Fan Out Across Mississippi

Nov 3, 2008

Jackson, MS – Poll watchers will fan out across the Mississippi to stop voter fraud on Election Day, according to state officials.

Several cases of voter fraud have previously been prosecuted in Mississippi.

In October in Benton County, people were paid $15 to $25 and a 12-pack of beer to vote absentee for a county supervisor and school superintendent.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann heads the elections for Mississippi. He says the most vulnerable citizens sold their votes.

"Only one [person who sold his vote] was employed on the date the vote was sold," according to Hosemann.

In 2007, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrests of 16 people in Benton and Tippah counties for vote buying. Two of the 16 people are elected officials.

In Wilkinson County, at the southwest corner of Mississippi, a judge ordered two special elections after finding that previous elections had not been free and fair.

In these two special elections, one a presidential primary and the other general, voter intimidation and excessive helping occurred in at least one precinct.

In Wilkinson County, one candidate reported that his house was burnt to the ground.

Hosemann referred the cases in Wilkinson County to the Mississippi and United States Attorney General's offices. The U.S. Attorney General's office did not return phone calls about the case.

To combat voter fraud, the state is holding Election Task Force meetings. At the meeting in Natchez County, which is next to Wilkinson County, one of the candidates testified that his house was burned down.

Jim Hood, the Attorney General for Mississippi, says he does not believe that voter fraud is widespread in Mississippi. He says the counties need to clean up their voter rolls of the deceased.

Both the Attorney General and Secretary of State will have people on the ground to watch the election on Tuesday.

In Mississippi, voters can vote absentee, but not early, as in Tennessee. Hood says changes in election law could thwart issues of voter fraud in the state. He believes that voter ID and early voting would fix the problem.