After losing reelection by a narrow margin, Central District Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey has sent notice to Commissioner De’Keither Stamps that he will be inspecting “ballot boxes, election materials, poll records and any and all other related items” from the Nov. 7 election.
By law, Bailey has the right to conduct such an examination, and a deadline of Monday, Nov. 27, to file a challenge of results. Bailey said at this point, he’s simply exercising his rights to examine things.
Stamps on Monday called the examination and possible challenge sour grapes on Bailey’s part. The race, particularly in the homestretch and during the long wait for finality, saw much mudslinging and bitter feelings between candidates.
The central PSC race was neck-and-neck, and Stamps wasn’t declared the winner for a week after Election Day as absentee and affidavit ballots were counted. The final result was a margin of 2,134 votes for Stamps, who won the race with 50.4% of the vote to Bailey’s 49.6% — the same percentage margin by which Bailey defeated Stamps in 2019 for the seat.
Stamps said Bailey’s challenge will hinder a smooth transition for the office — one of three commissioners who regulate public utilities and the rates they can charge customers — and ruin the Thanksgiving holiday for those involved in the review.
“Basically this spoils everybody’s Thanksgiving,” Stamps said. “If he goes through with this, there are 22 courthouses where we’ll have to have people standing by and watching, and 22 circuit clerks will have to have people working. We’ll have to have lawyers, and people to watch … I want to spend time with my family over the Thanksgiving holidays, and the people at the courthouse want to spend time with their families.
“I’m disappointed in Mr. Bailey,” Stamps said. “We conceded four years ago … He conceded to Cecil Brown eight years ago. What’s different? It’s just one of those things. We will work through it, though.”
Bailey said he has not yet made a decision on the scope of his inspection for the 22-county PSC district. He said Hinds County, which saw major problems on Election Day with precincts running out of ballots or not having proper ballots, will be “a focus” of his inspection.
“We want to ensure the process was carried forth properly, and that voters were provided their right to vote,” Bailey said. ” … We are doing our due diligence, taking steps afforded to us in state law.”
Stamps on Monday sent a letter to Bailey in response to his notice, saying Bailey must properly notify him of times and locations he arranges with clerks to examine election materials.
“It is my understanding that you lost the election by 2,134 votes, a significant margin that I do not believe you will be able to overcome with recounts,” Stamps wrote. “… I truly wish you would reconsider this expensive and burdensome multi-county undertaking.”
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