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A Refresher For Voting In The 2023 Elections

By David Howell

While several surrounding counties had a flurry of last-minute candidates qualify for county offices last Wednesday, the deadline day ended quietly at the circuit clerk’s offices in the Water Valley and Coffeeville courthouses. The lone last-day (and only candidate to qualify during the last week) qualifier was Terry Rockette seeking the Chancery Clerk position. And although the list of candidates seeking county offices is slim this year, the 13 independent candidates is likely the most in the county’s history. Times are changing.

Remember the 2019 election year marked the first time independent candidates were elected to county positions. The late Mark D. Fulco won the sheriff’s race and Trent Howell won the justice court judge race – both as independent candidates. It is safe to say that 2019 marked the end of an era, gone are the days of local candidates all running on the Democratic ticket and the races settled in the August Primary Election.

There are two reasons for this, one is partisan politics at the national level is driving voters to stick with their party of choice for local candidates. Voters are less likely to look at the candidate’s qualifications and instead vote along partisan lines.

The second reason is there have been some hotly contested Republican primary elections for state offices that made voters think hard about which ballot they would select for the party primary election. Remember in 2019, Tate Reeves was seeking his first term as governor and facing formidable challenges from Robert Foster and Bill Waller, Jr. in the Republican Primary. If you went to the polls in the primary election that year and wanted to vote in the governor’s race, you requested a Republican ballot. This meant that you could not vote for many of the local candidates in the county who were running on the Democratic ticket.

It can be confusing, so I thought we would have a quick refresher course with specific examples. Let’s start with the District 2 Supervisor race with a field of three candidates – all running on the Democratic ticket. The winner will be elected in the August 8 Democratic Primary, or possibly in the Democratic Primary runoff on August 29 if one of the candidates does not get a majority of the votes cast in the first election. With no independent or Republican challenger, the winner of the Democratic Primary Election will be on the November General Election ballot, but will be unopposed.

With the Tax Assessor/Collector race, there are two independent candidates. There will not be a party primary race for this position in August and you will not see the position listed on the Republican or Democrat ballot. Instead the two candidates will be on the November 7 General Election ballot.

With the Chancery Clerk’s race, we have an independent candidate and a Democratic candidate. The Democratic candidate will be listed on the ballot in the August Democratic primary, but will not be opposed. The Democratic candidate will advance as the party nominee and face the independent candidate in the November General Election. That will be the same scenario for the contested District 1 Constable position.

In the sheriff’s race, there is a Republican candidate and independent candidate. The Republican candidate will be listed on the Republican ballot in the August 8 Primary, but will have no opposition and automatically advance to the November General Election to face the independent candidate.

When it gets closer to election time this summer, we will revisit this subject. I bet you 10 to one there will be people who go to the polls and get mad when they don’t see the person on the ballot they want to vote for.

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