The Forrest County Board of Supervisors recently received a request from the county Election Commission to verify residency credentials for District 4 election commissioner candidates.
District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard expressed concern at the board’s regular meeting on Monday about what he believed was an unprecedented request of candidates in his district.
“This would be the first time that (the board) has ever vetted a candidate in any way, shape, form or fashion,” Woullard said.
Board President David Hogan explained that, upon review, the board was responsible for verifying qualifications for all election commissioner candidates before they were placed on the ballot. The board decided to enact new procedures to vet candidates in all five districts instead of agreeing to the commissioners’ specific request for District 4.
Board Attorney David Miller confirmed these procedures would be the process going forward.
At Monday’s meeting, the board reviewed District 4 election commissioner candidate Monica Miller.
Miller, a Hattiesburg native, is the daughter of Robert Lee Miller, Forrest County’s first Black deputy, and Verna Miller, a former educator and business owner. Living out of state for over 25 years, Miller returned to Hattiesburg in 2015.
“My parents worked public servants’ jobs,” Miller said. “They did not stop. My mother’s job as a teacher did not stop when she left Thames Elementary. My dad’s job did not stop when he parked that patrol car in front of our house. I am just a reflection of them to continue that spirit of service to represent District 4 as election commissioner. I am from here, bred here, love it here and glad to be back.”
In addition to providing her voter registration card as documentation of residency, Miller was accompanied by local civil rights attorney Glenda Funchess. Funchess, who said she personally recruited Miller for candidature, testified to the candidate’s ties to the area and current residential status.
The board also discussed early preparations for the November elections. Supervisors stated they were concerned that the continued rise in COVID-19 cases across the state would potentially impact the safety of both voters and poll workers.
Forrest County Emergency Management Director Glenn Moore advised that the county should stockpile enough masks for the upcoming election in case state agencies are unable to fulfill requests closer to November.
“I would order now … while we know we got a supply available,” said Moore. “If (the masks) aren’t used, then they can always be used by other departments in the county. You’re not throwing money away. You’re prepared. I promise you, before this is said and done, those masks will get used.”
In addition to surgical masks for voters, Moore recommended the county provide every poll worker with an N95 respirator mask, which offers better protection against airborne particles.
Supervisors unanimously agreed with Moore’s suggestions, and Hogan requested 15,000 surgical and 500 N95 masks be ordered and delivered to the county election commissioners for distribution to voting precincts.
Additionally, supervisors voted to double the size of a proposed mobile office that will serve as a voting precinct and community center in District 2 at Glendale. Concerns arose over the ability to safely social distance within the proposed 60-foot by 12-foot structure.
The board amended the initial proposal to a 60-foot by 24-foot unit and authorized Hogan to sign a 12-month lease, including delivery and installation, not to exceed $20,000.