Hattiesburg council expresses concerns about voter confusion

Hattiesburg council expresses concerns about voter confusion

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg City Council members say confusion about polling places for municipal elections needs to be remedied before the general election on June 6.

"I'm very disturbed about some of the procedures I see," said Mary Dryden, Ward 4 councilwoman and council vice president. "We've just got to do better."

Voter ID cards in Ward 1 sent people to the wrong polling place for municipal primary elections on May 2, but Dryden said that was not the only ward where voters were confused.

"The morning of the primary, I had a phone call from a voter in Ward 2 who went to the cultural center to vote, and saw someone in the parking lot who told him that it was going to be held at the African American history museum," Dryden said. "So I made signs myself and took them to the cultural center and posted one on the front door and one on the back door. Those signs were apparently removed by someone because by the time the arts council got there that morning, not too much after that, there no signs on either door. 75 to 100 people came into the building to vote to find out that that was not where they were supposed to vote. One was a person who is disabled and confined to a wheelchair. That's extremely unfortunate."

Hattiesburg City Clerk Kermas Eaton said he worked with Forrest County Circuit Court Clerk Gwen Wilks to correct the problem with the voter ID cards in Ward 1, so the information on new voter registration cards will have the correct address. While Dryden said she is happy to see the problem in Ward 1 resolved, she said it and the confusion in Ward 2 could have been avoided simply.

"It really disturbs me greatly that the city did not send out notices to all of our voters before the primary telling them where they should go vote," Dryden said. "It's very confusing that in national and state elections, they go to one place, in some cases, and then they go to a different place for municipal elections."

Four years ago, Dryden said residents in the Arcadia-Sunset neighborhood went to one wrong polling place and were directed to a second incorrect location before finally ending up in the right place.

"It was very, very confusing, so I would think that we would learn from a mistake like that and do better this time," Dryden said. "Apparently we're not."

Eaton said voters should receive a notice with their precinct name and address this week to hopefully reduce confusion ahead of the general election on June 6.

"We need to have a really good election process this time," Dryden said. "We have a lot to prove that we can do things better and learn from mistakes. We made too many four years ago. Let's get it right."