Candidates call for storing machines at neutral site

Published 5:05 pm Monday, July 21, 2008

Hisel calls for ‘honesty in election process’

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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The back-and-forth over the purity of the city’s election process continued on the steps of Selma’s Federal Building on Monday morning.

City Council presidential candidate Gene Hisel called a press conference to address the “perception of polling problems” in the Aug. 26 municipal elections.

The city council’s request for federal poll watchers in polling places during the elections indicates suspicion of possible problems, Hisel said.

“I would hope that even through the perception of any wrongdoing, the city council would move those machines to another location,” Hisel said. “The time to take care of wrongdoing in the voting process is before it happens, not after the election is over. It makes it much easier for the voters and the city.”

Selma City Clerk Lois Williams said during a recent city council meeting she would store the machines in the basement of City Hall until election day. Councilman Cecil Williamson questioned the change, as opposed to city’s normal procedure of storing machines in the Dallas County Courthouse.

Lola Sewell, a candidate in Ward 7, and Carrie Pressley, a candidate in Ward 4, also voiced their concerns Monday. Sewell said similar issues came up when she ran for the same seat four years ago.

“Some of us candidates felt back in 2004 that we had won the election, but the results didn’t show up that way,” Sewell said. “So now this just tells me that maybe there was some wrongdoing during the election in 2004.”

Some residents, however, didn’t see a problem with the way the city is handling the voting machines, which Election Systems & Software makes.

“I don’t really think the machines will be tampered with at all,” said Fred Chaney, a retired firefighter. “They can move them and put them where they want to put them, but I don’t think they’ll be tampered with.”

State Rep. Yusuf Salaam said that although he is not involved with this election, it was vital to protect the integrity of the process.

It’s very important that these citizens in Selma can have confidence, that whatever the result, it was achieved under fair and equitable and non-polluted circumstances,” Salaam said. “I think because of that concern, we want whatever government coming out of this election to have the utmost credibility. I support the idea that Mr. Hisel and others are advocating.”