Voters cast ballots in key state election

By Staff
CASTING BALLOTS Phyllis Clemons, left, signs in to vote as poll worker Vera Daniel checks her name in the books today at the Oakland Heights Elementary voting precinct. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. in today's election for state, legislative and county offices. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
from staff and wire reports
Nov. 4, 2003
Mary Jo Steil of Meridian said she has no doubt that Republican Haley Barbour is the right man to lead Mississippi.
Camilla Heath of Meridian, however, had a different take. Heath said she supports incumbent Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and voted for him today at the Poplar Springs precinct.
Voters in Meridian and across the state headed to the polls today to decide statewide, legislative and county elections. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. statewide.
The day's major races include the governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer and attorney general. Also up for grabs: state House, state Senate and county supervisor seats.
Voter turnout
Secretary of State Eric Clark, whose office oversees statewide elections, predicted about 775,000 voters will cast ballots today. Clark said turnout should be higher than the last state election in 1999, when 764,000 voted.
Voter turnout, however, is expected to be lower than the almost 1 million ballots cast in the 2000 presidential election a record turnout in Mississippi.
Candidates for statewide office spent Monday making last-minute campaign swings across the state. At least four Republican candidates visited Meridian and Lauderdale County looking for votes.
Barbour and GOP treasurer candidate Tate Reeves stopped by Jean's Restaurant on Front Street in downtown Meridian to greet the lunchtime crowd and grab a bite to eat.
Governor's race
Barbour meets Musgrove and three third-party candidates in the race for governor. Musgrove campaigned across the state Monday, but did not visit Meridian.
Barbour's Meridian stop was one of several statewide. He and campaign staffers flew across the state Monday, also visiting Hattiesburg, Tupelo, Columbus and Jackson.
Reeves made his own campaign swing. He and 10 campaign staffers visited 24 Mississippi counties during a 24-hour period that began Sunday night; they were traveling in a recreation vehicle.
Reeves meets Democrat Gary Anderson and Reform Party candidate Lee Dilworth in the treasurer's race. Anderson and Dilworth could not be reached for comment.
Other GOP candidates who visited Meridian on Monday included Max Phillips, who is challenging Democrat Lester Spell for agriculture commissioner, and Scott Newton, who is running against Democrat Jim Hood for state attorney general.
House decision
Clark said he was worried about the possibility that the election for governor could end up in the Mississippi House.
Candidates for statewide office must receive a majority of the popular vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts in order to win. If they don't do both, the state House will pick the winner in January.
The House elected Musgrove in 1999 after he didn't get a majority of the popular vote over Republican Mike Parker. Both carried the same number of state House districts 61.
Political parties, however, focused on getting out the vote. Rickey Cole, state Democratic Party chairman, said the party was conducting phone banks, holding rallies and arranging to give voters rides to the polls.
Republicans were using a get-out-the-vote plan devised by the Republican National Committee.
State GOP chairman Jim Herring said the party had more than a dozen phone banks running Monday and was sending volunteers to knock on doors of likely Republican voters. He said Republicans are not planning to provide rides for voters.