WATER VALLEY – The 2019 General Election in Yalobusha County will long be remembered for the large turnout and the historic two-vote win in the sheriff’s race after independent candidate Mark Fulco was declared the winner over Democratic candidate Luther Folson, 2,569 to 2,567.
The unofficial results were announced Tuesday night in the Water Valley courthouse around 10:30 p.m. in a race that had captured the attention of dozens of spectators as the boxes were coming in from the county’s 12 precincts and it was apparent it was going to be close. Folson was leading by a single vote before 15 affidavit ballots were examined, the final step in Tuesday’s vote count.
With both candidates observing, the Yalobusha County Election Commissioners, Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney and deputy Circuit Clerk Vicki Caldwell examined each affidavit ballot to determine if the voter was eligible. Ten of the ballots were deemed ineligible, as the voters were not registered in the county, and five were counted. Four went to Fulco and one to Folson, giving Fulco the two-vote lead.
The courthouse crowd dwindled and the unofficial vote count made the rounds on various news sites and on social media.
There was still a single ballot not counted, a photo ID affidavit ballot. This voter did not have a photo ID when she voted Tuesday and was allowed to cast an affidavit ballot in accordance with state law. She had five business days to bring the photo ID to the Circuit Clerk’s office and returned Thursday with her ID.
Although not enough to change the outcome of the election, speculation mounted in the county as to how the vote would go in the sheriff’s race. Fulco’s lead could be cut in half, to a single vote, or increase to three votes.
The election commissioners gathered in the Water Valley courthouse at 1 p.m. Friday to open and count the final ballot and certify the election. When the ballot was opened, the sheriff’s race remained unchanged as the voter did not select a candidate in this race or the tax assessor/collector’s race. She was one of 101 voters in the county who opted not to vote for either candidate for sheriff, similar to the 80 voters who decided not to weigh in on the governor’s race.
Minutes later the election was certified, as each of the five election commissioners signed off on the results. Their meeting would last until mid afternoon as they put the accompanying paperwork in the dozen precinct boxes and sealed them.
Under state law, a candidate has 12 days after the election is certified to examine the ballot boxes and must give the opposing candidate three days notice before the inspection. A notice was filed in the Yalobusha County Circuit Clerk’s office on Nov. 8 and Fulco was given written notice Sunday afternoon.
“I am requesting to do this on Friday, November 15, 2019, in anticipation of possibly contesting the election,” Folson’s notice stated.
During the inspection, only Folson or his authorized representative shall have the right of the full examination of the box and its contents in the presence of the circuit clerk or deputy clerk, who is charged with the duty to see that none of the contents of the box are removed from the presence of the clerk or tampered with.
If Folson decides to challenge the election he has up to 20 days from the date of the election, Nov. 5, to file a petition in the circuit clerk’s office setting forth the grounds upon which the election is contested. If the petition is filed, the circuit clerk is required to notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who will designate a circuit judge or chancellor from a different district to preside over the case.