EDITORIAL: Big Runoffs

Tuesday is an important day in 15 Northeast Mississippi communities with municipal primary runoffs scheduled.
Unfortunately, voter turnout tends to drop considerably in runoff elections. A small percentage of the eligible electorate winds up making decisions affect a city or town for the next four years and beyond.
Area municipalities with party primary runoffs tomorrow include Amory, Baldwyn, Booneville, Ecru, Fulton, Holly Springs, Mantachie, New Albany, Okolona, Pontotoc, Ripley, Shannon, Starkville, Tupelo and West Point. Four of those – Fulton, Holly Springs, New Albany and Starkville – have mayoral contests, while the rest have board of aldermen or council positions up for grabs. Baldwyn has a police chief race.
In the majority of cases, no general election opponents wait in the wings and the runoff will determine the office-holder for the next four years.
In Tupelo, there are two runoffs for council in Wards 5 and 7. The final decision will be made in Ward 5, where the winner of the runoff between Republican incumbent Bill Martin and his GOP challenger Jonny Davis will have no general election opposition. The winner of Ward 7’s Democratic runoff between Willie Allen and Willie Jennings will face incumbent Republican Berdell Jones on June 2.
In addition to Ward 7, general election contests for council in June await voters in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, but if you live in one of those wards, you won’t be voting tomorrow. The mayoral general election between Democrat Doyce Deas and Republican Jack Reed is not until June 2.
Remember, you can vote in any primary runoff if you didn’t vote in the first primary May 5, but if you participated in one primary two weeks ago you can’t switch to the other party’s runoff.
Tupelo’s first primary turnout of 6,092 was a disappointing 15 percent below the 2005 figure of 7,099. Some of that may be attributable to voter confusion with some voters’ polling places having changed as a result of redrawn ward lines. Additionally, the fact that city polling places are different from state and federal elections adds to the potential for mix-ups. (Ward 5 polling places are the Veterans Park Common Building and the University of Mississippi Building, while Ward 7 votes at Haven Acres Community Center and First United Pentecostal Church.)
Even so, with nearly 25,000 voters registered in Tupelo, turnout ought to be far higher than it has been in any recent city election, given the stakes. Municipal government has a direct impact on the quality of life of every resident, and interest and participation ought to reflect that importance.
Vote Tuesday, then check the results at NEMS360.com and in Wednesday’s Daily Journal.


Lloyd Gray

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