Anyone who needs an absentee ballot in Hinds County is getting one, either in person or in the mail. Hinds County District 4 Election Commissioner Connie Cochran said she prepared the ballot Wednesday after District 3 Commissioner and the panel’s chair Jermal Clark agreed to place the names of candidates in alphabetical order. Clark told Hinds County supervisors on Monday that he didn’t know how to prepare the ballot because he’d never been trained, and that Cochran and District 5 Commissioner Lelia Gaston Rhodes refused to help him when he asked. By law, the ballot was due to Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn’s office by Sept. 22. Cochran said she initially told him he should know how to do it after serving eight years on the commission, and to figure it out – but that she later agreed to facilitate if he listed the candidates not by party, but by alphabetical order as has been done for decades. Clark had wanted in his capacity as commission chair to list them by party, first Democrat, then Republican.
The U.S. Department of Justice potentially could have seen that as a problem, Cochran said. “I went and sat down and did the ballot,” Cochran said Friday. “Anyone can come and vote or request an absentee ballot. There is no obstacle to prohibit anyone from voting at this point.” Clark, who couldn’t be reached Friday, was responsible for creating the ballot and meeting the deadline. When he missed it, concerns immediately were raised that Mississippi members of the military wouldn’t get their absentee ballots by the deadline of 45 days before a federal election.