UPDATE; High voter turnout in Mississippi

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Law-enforcement authorities on Tuesday responded to the Davis Box Building Precinct near Tupelo after voters complained that a man identified as Peter Rabbit was intimidating them.

Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies said a man known as Peter Rabbit was at the polling location but causing no trouble. The deputies said poll workers assured them the man had not harassed anyone.

The call came through Lee County dispatch shortly after 3 p.m.

Davis Box is located on County Road 1, just northeast of Sherman.

The incident is one of several reported throughout the state as thousands of voters head to the polls.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, technicians responded to several minor problems, including those in the following counties:

• Hinds County: Terry Volunteer Fire Department: Long lines reported. Voters are walking far distances to cast their ballot. Hinds County Sheriff’s Department is on site to direct traffic.

• Stone County: One precinct is without power; voting machines are working from battery powered devices.

• Scott County: Issue where some machines were either not plugged in and another was knocked over. A county tech was dispatched to the location and the machines were up and running by 7:36 am.

• Counties with printers attached to the voting machines will only show a “D” or an “R” under the presidential race, due to a lack of character space on the printer tapes on the machines. Thirty-eight of the 77 counties which use voting machines have received pre-clearance from the Department of Justice to remove the printers from the machines. Those counties include: Adams, Alcorn, Amite, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Copiah, Forrest, George, Grenada, Hancock, Harrison, Itawamba, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jones, Lawrence, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Neshoba, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Prentiss, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Union, Wayne, Winston, Yazoo.

The Secretary of State also reported “exceptionally high” voter turnout throughout Mississippi.

Hundreds of voters had lined up before 7 a.m. at the Lawndale Presbyterian Church polling station in what marked one of the biggest early turnouts in recent memory.

Some 550 residents had cast ballots there by 8:45 a.m., with dozens more streaming through the doors.

Nearly 1,100 ballots were cast an hour later at Bissell Baptist Church, where the city had erected an electronic road sign to control vehicles waiting to enter and exit the site.

At 10:30 a.m., a time when traffic usually slows down, voters still snaked around the Lee County Courthouse where more than 600 ballots already had been cast.

Polling stations across the region, the state and the nation reported the same high turnouts.

“It’s like this everywhere,” said Lee County District 2 Supervisor Bobby Smith, who had visited several polling stations across his district and found the same trend. “My daughter is a poll worker in Virginia, and she said there’s a huge turnout there, too.”

Tupelo voter Cathryn Wilson linked the high numbers to a general malaise about the country and its current state.

“People are waking up,” said Wilson, who had cast her ballot at Bissell. “I’ve never seen it this packed. I take it as a good sign.”

Besides helping chose the president, Mississippi voters are electing five federal officials and five state appellate judges. Other races on the ballot are a U.S. Senate race statewide. Each of the four U.S. House districts has a race.

The northern Supreme Court district has one contested race. The central district has two races — one contested and one with only one candidate. The southern Supreme Court district has one contested race.

In the Delta and most of Jackson, there’s a Court of Appeals contest.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, with many poll workers saying they expect a steady pace all day.

“I’ve worked at the pools 30-something years, and I’ve never seen it this way before, even in a presidential election” said Lee County poll worker Callie Hale. “I think we’ll be here all night.”

High turnouts shouldn’t deter those who haven’t yet cast ballots, said Dan Georges, who moved to Tupelo from a small town in Indiana two years ago.

“There were a lot of people, but we were in and out in five minutes,” he said. “It’s really well organized.”

Voters won’t have to show identification at the polls because the federal government hasn’t decided whether to approve the state’s proposed voter ID law.

Randy Vinzant, 43, who owns Southeastern Signs in Madison, said the economy and taxes are the nation’s biggest issues. He said he’s voting for Mitt Romney because he thinks Romney’s tax policies would be better for small businesses like his, which has six employees. He’s also worried that President Obama’s health care law will make insurance too expensive to keep all his employees.

The way things are now, “it’s just about put me out of business,” Vinzant said.

Orlando Hill said he has struggled through the sluggish economy, too, filing for bankruptcy to save his house, but believes President Obama can turn things around if given more time.

“You have to have patience. All of this wasn’t created by him. We have to give him a chance,” said Hill, who is in the Army Reserve and a psychological technician for U.S. Veterans Affairs in Mississippi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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