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Watson outlines voting contingency plan for November’s General Election

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Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (photo via MSOS website)

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has outlined his plan for ensuring citizen’s safety during the upcoming General Election Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we hope to have this in our rearview mirror before the upcoming elections, I realize we must act now,” Watson said in a statement. “Your right to vote should not be among the pandemic’s victims.”

Watson said he has consulted with election commissioners and circuit clerks across the state to develop a plan that maintains the integrity of elections, focuses on the well-being of citizens “and upholds Mississippi’s steadfast conservative values.”

Included in the plan is additional poll worker training regarding proper sanitation and social distancing, and he expects to offer the full training course online.

“Due to the expected need for more poll workers, we are asking Election Commissioners to fully utilize the current student internship program, and we are looking into potential partnerships with colleges and universities to incentivize students to work on Election Day,” he said.

Watson added that a key component of the plan is urging the legislature to adopt an additional absentee excuse to allow Mississippians to absentee vote in person when they are subject to a state of emergency declared by the governor or president.

“Authorizing voters to vote in-person absentee when under a state of emergency will lead to our office partnering even closer with circuit clerks to possibly expand curbside absentee voting to help limit the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day,” he said.

He also wants counties to be able to hire temporary staff to meet the increased demand by using funds from federal COVID-19 relief funds to offset some of the increased costs of administering elections during the pandemic.

“I want Mississippians to understand this is not a ploy to implement early voting, but a temporary way to permit those who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 a safe opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” Watson said.

“Election Day itself will look a little different than usual, but I assure you the security of your vote and your wellness are our top priorities. We may consider temporary outdoor facilities if traditional polling locations are not available. By voting in an open-air environment, vulnerable populations would be safer, and it would ensure compliance with proper social distancing measures. Some of these measures include safe capacity limits, “one-in, one-out” lines, cleaning machines between each use, disposable marking devices for touch screens and providing readily available sanitizing stations. We also plan to make sure all poll workers have the necessary personal protective equipment and are in communication with our universities and private businesses about partnering to provide these resources.

“While the state may be tightening its belt on many nonessential operations, enforcement of election law is not one of them.”

Read the whole statement here.

News

City says gas smell poses no danger

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(Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay)

Numerous Vicksburg residents have reported a strong odor similar to natural gas in the city.

City officials say the smell is apparently due to a release on the harbor, and that it poses no danger.

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News

Update on the woman connected to high speed chase and crash

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The end of the chase. (Photo by David Day)

The high speed chase and crash that began at the Waffle House on Pemberton Square Boulevard in Vicksburg Saturday night originated with a domestic dispute.

The driver of the rented Nissan Rogue that eventually crashed and burned, Bonjara O’Quin, and his unnamed passenger were arguing for some time on Saturday.

One Vicksburg Daily News reader said they noticed them on the Natchez Trace earlier in the day. O’Quin was walking down the road and the female was driving slowly next to him trying to convince him to get back in the SUV. His distinctive pink shoes are what made our reader link the couple to this story.

Later in the day, the couple’s disagreement escalated, and a caller to 911 described a “rolling disturbance” in a blue SUV with Illinois plates near the Waffle House on Pemberton. Officer Michael Battle went to that scene but didn’t see the suspect vehicle. Shortly thereafter another call came into the 911 call center that the vehicle fitting that description was involved in a physical altercation at the Shell located at 4747 U.S. Highway 61 South. The man in the SUV was pulling a pregnant female from the vehicle by her hair.

The Shell Food Mart, 4747 U.S. 61 South. (photo by David Day)

Officer Battle drove to the scene with his lights and siren on, and O’Quin fled south on U.S 61. Battle immediately reported the blue SUV was not responding to his blue lights and siren and was accelerating away from the marked unit. Battle radioed the chase in and the channel was cleared of other traffic so Battle could report at will. The Mississippi Highway Patrol was notified and several units responded. As the chase continued south with speeds in excess of 100 mph, the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the call.

O’Quin lost control of the vehicle as he attempted to turn west onto Shiloh Road just inside Claiborne County resulting in a fiery wreck. He received minor injuries and was treated and released to police custody.

U.S. Highway 61 South where it meets Shiloh Road in Claiborne County.

The unidentified female was treated by a Vicksburg Fire/Medic unit and refused further medical care or transportation to Merit Health River Region.

Bonjara O’Quin and an unidentified law enforcement officer. (Photo by David Day)

O’Quin has been charged with domestic violence and felony elude.

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Events

Mississippi Boy Choir’s annual Christmas Concert will be online Friday

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(photo from MBC Facebook page)

The Mississippi Boy Choir will present its annual Christmas Concert virtually this year, meaning everyone can enjoy the choir for free.

The concert is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the choir’s website from the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

2020 marks the 26th season for the choir, which stems from a 1,500-year-old tradition of boys singing in the great cathedrals of Western Europe. The organization has two choirs: a training choir that consists of young boys in second grade up whose voices have not changed, and a concert choir with both changed and unchanged voices. The concert choir generally consists of boys from the fifth through the 12th grade.

The Vicksburg branch of the Mississippi Boy Choir meets on Mondays at the Church of the Holy Trinity on South Street.

Friday’s performance is funded by the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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