TUPELO – Confused by shifting ward lines and different polling places, hundreds of voters struggled to cast a vote in Tuesday’s municipal primary election.
Phones started ringing at 6 a.m. at City Hall, where employees helped residents identify their wards, precincts, polling places and candidates. They listened to complaints, explained rules and calmed tensions as the day progressed, said Terri Blissard, city grant writer who was pulled from her office to help field the four phone lines.
“They’ve been ringing non stop,” said Beverly Dallas, who works in the city clerk’s office where the election activity unfolds. “Mostly people want to know where they vote.”
Ward 2 City Council candidate Fred Pitts waved his campaign sign most of the day outside the Link Centre polling location. He said voters seemed bewildered.
“It’s been confusing – big time,” Pitts said. “A lot of people have gone to the … church to vote and then realized that they had to come here. Once they’re here, they don’t know where to park or which door to go in. I’ve had to help people call City Hall to find out where they vote.”
Ward 2 voters used to cast ballots at the West Jackson Street Baptist Church, but the location changed this year to the Link Centre. Further muddling the process, polling places in municipal elections aren’t the same as in county, state or federal elections.
The city also shifted its ward lines since the latest municipal election, so some voters discovered that not only had their polling precincts changed, so had their wards.
One man called the Daily Journal and complained that he and “50 other people” had gone to two different locations – both the wrong ones – and finally decided to go home without voting. He hung up before leaving his name.
Not everyone got confused, though. The Rev. Roger Walker said he had no trouble at all casting his ballot at the Link Centre.
“I had no trouble finding it,” Walker said. “I live right across the street.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal