Monday, 19 November 2007

It's like the 1960s all over again in Mississippi

First it was Noxubee County, now it’s Wilkinson County’s turn to keep the civil rights division of the Justice Department in business:

Three Wilkinson County officials will take the Fifth Amendment if asked to testify in a bizarre election challenge that involves claims of voting irregularities, intimidation and racial overtones in the Democratic primary, an attorney said.

Sheriff Reginald Jackson, Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen and Supervisor Richard Hollins went to court to challenge their re-election losses in the Aug. 7 primary.

What makes the case unusual is that the three incumbents wanted a court to decide the matter, but it now appears they don’t want to participate in the hearings that began last week. ...

The incumbents were reportedly losing the Democratic primary when the polls closed. But they were declared winners after paper ballots were counted by a small group of people, including the sheriff’s sister, Easter Prater, the chair of the county’s Democratic Executive Committee.

That’s when accusations began to surface that someone stuffed the ballot boxes.

“We have made allegations of massive fraud regarding the paper ballots,” Piazza told The Associated Press on Saturday. “And now these folks have announced in open court that they are taking the Fifth Amendment.” ...

In a disturbing twist to the story, [Kirk] Smith, the only white candidate in the debacle, has been the victim of a series of tragedies since the primary, Piazza said. Smith’s wife, Donna, was arrested in a courtroom when she disputed the results. She was cleared of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace charges and is suing the deputy, Piazza said. Also, vandals damaged Smith’s construction equipment and his home burned just days later.

“It was definitely an arson,” Smith told the AP.

Wilkinson County is in the extreme southwest corner of the state and has population of about 10,000 — about 70 percent black and 30 percent white.

This is not the first time whites in Mississippi have claimed racial intimidation during an election. A federal judge ruled in June that the Noxubee County Democratic Party in eastern Mississippi violated whites’ voting rights. That was the first time the 1965 Voting Rights Act was used on behalf of whites.

Maybe there’s something in the water in Mississippi’s black belts that causes everyone in power there, white or black, to play dirty tricks with elections.

þ: Rick Hasen.

1 comment:

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[Permalink] 1. Alfie Sumrall wrote @ Mon, 19 Nov 2007, 5:00 pm CST:

I’ve spent 28+ years either in MS or within 10 miles of the state line and I had no idea until now there was a Wilkinson County, MS.

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