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Tagert advances to runoff for transportation commissioner

January 12, 2011

Betty Evans, left, completes paperwork as she, Annie Harris and Anne McWhorter await voters at the Gillespie Street Center precinct in Tuesday’s special election.

By BRIAN HAWKINS
sdneditor@bellsouth.net

A Starkville candidate running in Tuesday’s special election for the vacant Northern District seat on the Mississippi Transportation Commission has advanced to a runoff on Feb. 1.
According to statewide media reports, unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election showed John M.M. Caldwell Sr. of Nesbit, transportation director for the DeSoto County School District, leading the seven-candidate filed. Mike Tagert of Starkville, president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council, was second.
Since no candidate in the race received a majority (50 percent plus one) of the votes cast, the top two candidates advanced to the runoff on Feb. 1.
The transportation race was to fill a vacancy created by the Nov. 1 death of Commissioner Bill Minor of Holly Springs. The three-member Mississippi Transportation Commission oversees one of the largest agencies in state government, with responsibility over highways, bridges, ports and airports.
Tagert, 40, easily carried Oktibbeha County, winning 77.27 percent of the 2213 votes cast. By comparison, Caldwell finished fifth in Oktibbeha County with only 3.21 percent of the votes cast locally.
Only 2,213 of the county’s 24,940 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s special
election for a voter turnout of just under 9 percent, including all absentee and affidavit ballots cast.
Because of the low number of affidavit ballots, Circuit Clerk Angie McGinnis and members of the Election Commission were able to certify the results of the special election Tuesday night, so the local results published today are final.
Few problems were reported with the election, McGinnis said.
The only issue poll workers faced was the fact that the individual paper tape printers in each voting machine would not print individual votes.
The non-functioning printers in the touch-screen voting machines resulted from the coding of the ballot data from the Secretary of State’s Office that instructed the machines not to print individual votes.
However, the memory cards of each machine recorded the individual votes and would have those records available should they be needed, McGinnis said.
Information about absentee voting for the runoff election will be announced as soon as ballots are available in the Circuit Clerk’s Office, McGinnis said.

How Oktibbeha County voted

The following are final certified results of Tuesday’s special election in Oktibbeha County. The following results include all affidavit and absentee ballots cast. The Oktibbeha County Election Commission was able to certify the results Tuesday night due to the low number of affidavit ballots cast:
For Transportation Commissioner, Northern District
• John M.M. Caldwell Sr. 71
• Dennis C. Grisham 116
• Joey Hood 80
• Larry Lee 14
• Warner McBride 151
• Ray Minor 70
• Mike Tagert 1710

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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