I like voting. I enjoy the routine of driving to the McComb Church of Christ precinct, bantering with the pollworkers and tapping my selections into the machine.
It’s fun, even if my single vote is statistically insignificant among the thousands or millions of participants.
This past Tuesday was a routine trip to the precinct — until it wasn’t. There were two legislative races on my electronic ballot that I was sure were not supposed to be there.
It turned out that I was wrong, but it was a pretty interesting few minutes, with a bunch of pollworkers and other voters along for the ride.
I was going through the ballot as usual, voting in the statewide races, but stopped when I saw the ballot for state Senate District 38.
Incumbent Sen. Tammy Witherspoon was unopposed in the general election, but I was sure that I voted in the Republican primary for Senate District 37 earlier this year.
In that race, former Sen. Melanie Sojourner beat three other Republicans, then won back her seat this week.
You can’t vote in one Senate district in a primary and another one in the general election, so I knew something was wrong.
House District 98 was next on my ballot. Daryl Porter Jr., who is succeeding David Myers, also was unopposed Tuesday. But I believed my home is in District 97, where Sam Mims got re-elected.
That was two red flags, so for the first time in my life, I told a nearby pollworker that I thought I had been given the wrong ballot.
Let me say here that all of the Church of Christ pollworkers were great. They dutifully started checking their information, and one made a phone call but got put on hold.
The clock was ticking on two fronts. First, if a ballot is inactive for a certain period of time, the voting machine starts beeping. If you don’t press the “resume” button, it will cancel your voting session.
Secondly, several people had come in behind me to vote, and were watching this unfold.
Thank God Charlie Stringer wasn’t there, because he would have been razzing me mercilessly. Maxine Bierbaum and JoAnn Sawyer, two other neighbors who were waiting to vote, were quite charitable about the delay I was causing.
After pressing the voting machine’s resume button at least twice, I decided to go ahead and finish. Even though I believed the legislative seats on my ballot were incorrect, it was not worth making any more of a fuss.
But upon returning to the office, I called Circuit Clerk Roger Graves to report a possible problem. He promised to check it out and get back with me in a few minutes.
And he did. He looked at the maps of the legislative districts and confirmed that Westview Circle, where I live, is in Witherspoon’s Senate district. (I forgot to ask him which House district I’m in.)
He said my general election ballot was correct, but there were some inaccurate ballots at the Church of Christ precinct during this year’s primaries. Apparently I voted in the wrong Senate primary, and maybe the wrong runoff.
Mistakes happen, and presumably any ballot errors in the primary were not too serious. Otherwise there would have been court challenges.
There is an easy way to avoid this confusion. The Legislature could quit splitting so many precincts into multiple House and Senate districts.
Graves said that Pike County needed 50 different ballots for its 25 precincts. The Church of Christ precinct had three different ballots.
Some of these extra ballots are obviously required for positions like supervisor or justice court judge.
But some are created for purely self-serving reasons, in my opinion. The Legislature is in charge of its own redistricting, and so it’s natural that they’re going to draw the lines in a way that helps each member get re-elected.
I’ll bet if the legislative committees in charge of redistricting made a commitment to keep their districts from splitting county precincts, they would eliminate a large percentage of extra ballots.
That would reduce the different number of ballots that counties must produce. It also would make life easier for pollworkers and for voters like me, who take an interest in politics and are reasonably informed about what’s on the ballot.
Anyway, I still like voting. And by the way, Graves said that if the machine cancels an inactive ballot, the voter gets to start over. Which now is good information for me to know.