Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann last week issued his official report on the 2009 municipal elections. Compiled from the reports of 32 observers in 21 municipalities, he outlines allegations of illegal assistance, voter intimidation, improper registration, and voter fraud. One violator has been identified as a sitting state Senator.

Hosemann's office referred criminal allegations to the Attorney General and appropriate law enforcement authorities.

The Secretary of State's Election Hotline received 199 questions, complaints, and allegations from 73 municipalities.

Hosemann reported allegations that the New Albany city clerk directed absentee voters on whom to cast their ballots and used law enforcement to instruct voters to cast absentee ballots. Another allegation said absentee ballots were opened early and a police officer took the ballot back to a voter with instructions to cast the ballot for a different candidate.

Hosemann also noted allegations in Macon that voters received absentee ballots without requesting them, only to have the city clerk and a candidate show up at their homes and mark the ballot for them.

Another serious allegation involved Canton where a candidate sent a letter to Congressman Bennie Thompson alleging several hundred voters registered at vacant buildings or lots and instances of dead people voting.

Almost 16 percent of the called in complaints concerned the violation of the 150-foot prohibition against campaigning around a precinct. The legislature created this campaign free zone to guard against voter intimidation and the disruption of the voting process.

The Greenwood Commonwealth identified one of these violators as State Senator David Jordan, who was running for reelection for his other job as Greenwood city councilman. Observers from the Office of Attorney General and the Secretary of State, in addition to a reporter from the Commonwealth, witnessed Jordan violating the 150-foot campaign free zone around his Ward 6 precinct. The Commonwealth reported he continued this behavior after being reprimanded by a representative of the Attorney General.

The Commonwealth editorialized, "Jordan, a Democrat, has tried to deflect the criticism by accusing Hosemann and the attorney general's office of racial bias in where they set up observers. He claims that only black precincts were targeted for such scrutiny. That claim doesn't hold water. Jordan was caught not because Jordan is black, but because Jordan was doing wrong....As a state senator and city councilman for more than two decades, he knows well what the election rules are. He willfully decided to ignore them....All this other talk of racism is just a smokescreen. It reflects Jordan's chronic inability to acknowledge his mistakes."

Other reported violations in Greenwood include a candidate speaking to a voter while casting a curbside vote, and poll workers assisting voters who had not requested assistance.

The Mississippi Republican Party currently has a suit pending against the Leflore County Election Commissioner and a poll manager for similar behavior during the 2008 election.

The 2009 election in Greenwood seems to have run a similar course as Hosemann's report noted two individuals offering improper assistance to "a large number of voters." An observer from the Secretary of State's Office deterred that assistance, but those two individuals went to another precinct and carried on the same behavior. These individuals would take the voter to the sign-in book, announce the person's name, then escort the voter to the machine and assist them in voting. The voters never asked for assistance and were reportedly not blind, disabled, or illiterate: the qualifications required to be assisted.

Improper assistance was also reported in Arcola, Como, Laurel, Meridian, Vicksburg and Wiggins. In addition to Greenwood, violations of the 150 foot rule were observed in Fayette, Bogue Chitto, Collins, Columbus and Como.

The report also listed allegations of intimidation of voters by law enforcement in Arcola, Gautier, Macon, New Albany, Tutwiler and Mantachie.

A reported violation in Fayette involved a person who was allowed to register and vote on Election Day. Registration is closed weeks before an election.

Much of the voter fraud in Mississippi can be found in absentee ballots. Abnormally high absentee balloting rates occurred in several municipalities: Macon with 39.40 percent, West Point at 19 percent, Sardis at 18.20 percent and Ripley at 14.4 percent. This contrasts with larger cities like Tupelo at 2.1 percent and Jackson at 1.17 percent. Jackson had 33,800 votes cast and saw only 381 absentee ballots; Macon had 541 absentee votes out of 1384 votes cast.

Hosemann's report says, "The biggest areas of continuing concern are absentee ballots, inaccurate poll books, campaigning too close to the polls, and voter assistance."

There is no such thing as a perfect election, but this report seems to indicate the willful violation of Mississippi's election laws, or unacceptable levels of ignorance or apathy by those charged to ensure honest elections on the local level.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.