ABERDEEN – Aberdeen’s upcoming city election schedule is now adjusted following action taken at a March 25 special-called board of aldermen meeting. Out of health precautions due to COVID-19, the Democratic primaries and general election will both be pushed back roughly a month.
The primary, originally scheduled for April 7, will be May 5, with its runoff date moved from April 21 to May 19. The general election, originally planned for May 5, will now be June 2.
Before the vote was taken, Mayor Maurice Howard asked for the board to let the citizens decide about the timing of the election, saying he and the majority of the board had political interests in the election since everyone except Ward 5 Alderman Jim Buffington is running for office.
“I think it’s absurd, as elected officials, to not at least call on the people and ask them what they think. Let’s let their voices be heard. We need to let the people cast their votes if they want to vote and if they want to vote, we’ll take all the necessary precautions we have to take,” he said.
Aldermen each agreed the decision was in the best interest of protecting voters’ and poll workers’ health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak.
“My whole perspective is to protect the voters of Aberdeen, keeping their safety in mind and their health and welfare. That’s the whole idea behind this thing. To use a metaphor, ‘I don’t have a dog in this hunt.’ I’m not running for re-election, so there’s no selfish interest on my part,” Buffington said. “I’d rather air on the side of safety for the people than be too much in haste to conduct this election.”
The board weighed opinions from Aberdeen Democratic Executive Committee members Coy Flynn and Will Walker, who were both present, and correspondence from N.A.A.C.P. Aberdeen/Monroe County Chapter President Leon Manning, who were all in favor of postponing the election.
Flynn cited difficulties even hosting poll worker training due to the number exceeding the recommended 10 people at gatherings.
Ward 1 alderman candidate Nicholas Holliday and Ward 2 alderman candidate Lady B. Garth both voiced their opposition to postponements. Garth suggested the Democratic executive committee use the online Zoom platform for training purposes.
“We go to work still. We go to the grocery store still and everything else,” she said. “Only allow x-number of people in [to polling places]. We can still have that election April 7.”
Absentee ballots already received before last week’s decision will still be counted towards the primary and general election.
The city clerk’s office will be open for absentee voting the two Saturdays before the primary, April 25 and May 2, from 8 a.m. until noon, and normal business hours from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays.
The deadline for in-person absentee ballots is May 2, and the deadline for the circuit clerk’s office to receive them by mail is May 4.
Aberdeen operates under a special charter, and city leaders in Natchez, which also operates under the same election schedule, voted last week to postpone its elections.