Election night

DeSoto County Election Commissioners Barry Chatham, Paul Beale and Tina Hill check receiving bags in the vault of the DeSoto County Election Commission Office following Tuesday's general and special elections.

Tuesday's general election and special election were ones for the history books, according to DeSoto County Election officials.

"I've been doing this for 30 years and I have never seen a turnout like this for a midterm election in my lifetime," said DeSoto County Election Commissioner Paul Beale of Olive Branch. "Someone said this was the biggest turnout in a midterm election nationwide since 1917."

Of DeSoto County's 104,104 registered voters, a total of 50,926 voted in Tuesday's elections, or 48.73 percent.

It was an election that decided one contested circuit court judgeship and two DeSoto County School Board seats along with uncontested races in chancery, circuit and county court judge positions along with a Mississippi Supreme Court of Appeals post and a U.S. Representative in Congress.  

Circuit Court Judge Celeste Embrey Wilson will return to her position on the bench after defeating attorney Stan Little in one of the more contested races of Election Day 2018.

DeSoto County Board of Education board members Ann Jolley and Sheila Riley were re-elected as they fended off challenges for their District 3 and District 4 seats, respectively, on the school board.

And, voters in DeSoto County gave U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith a slight edge over Mike Espy in the four-person challenge for the seat Hyde-Smith was appointed to with the earlier resignation/retirement of former Sen. Thad Cochran. However, no one received a majority statewide and a runoff election between Hyde-Smith and Espy will take place on Nov. 27.

Statewide, Hyde-Smith held a slight edge over Espy 42-41 percent with 92 percent of the vote.

A side issue that developed in Tuesday's election involved delaying transmission of vote totals to the state election system via Internet to prevent hacking.

As a result, there was an early delay in releasing voting information.

District 2 Supervisor Mark Gardner said late Tuesday the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors simply followed the advice of Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in delaying an internet transmission of vote totals, even for a few seconds in the effort to prevent hacking of the election totals, simply a precautionary measure that delayed the reporting of vote totals.

Gardner said the decision was made with more than 15 people in the room, including DeSoto Circuit Clerk Dale Thompson, to delay an electronic transmission of vote totals. Gardner said the decision was made after receiving the letter from Hosemann.

DeSoto County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard echoed Gardner that security and cyber hacking was indeed an issue but emphasized that the final decision whether or not to send vote totals from precincts over the Internet was left with Thompson and election officials, not supervisors.

Lynchard said the Board of Supervisors asked Thompson to come to a board meeting and relayed the concerns of Hosemann.

Thompson was steadfast that the county could transmit the election data securely.

Only DeSoto County and Rankin County possess the capability to transmit election data electronically over the Internet.

"The Board of Supervisors said clearly it was Mrs. Thompson's decision," Lynchard said.

At the end of the night, Thompson said everything came out correctly.

"The tapes and electronic results matched perfectly, so there was no hacking in DeSoto County," Thompson said. "We had paper backups, tape backups and we had so many safeguards to make sure that wouldn’t happen."

For a link to DeSoto County vote totals from Tuesday's election, CLICK HERE.

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