With thirteen candidates in Hinds sheriff race, experts say crowded ticket could impact voter turnout

3OYS finds more candidates running for Hinds Co. sheriff than in last twenty years
Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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ACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The fate of thirteen candidates all running to be the next sheriff of Hinds County will be in the hands of voters during November’s special election to fill the late Sheriff Lee Vance’s seat.

That baker’s dozen is the highest number of candidates running for sheriff in Hinds County in at least the last twenty years, according to a 3 On Your Side analysis of races from data provided by the circuit clerk’s office.

Hinds County Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace said the large number of choices in a single race could have a negative impact on voter turnout.

“It is a concern. And that’s always in every election. Some people do feel like their vote doesn’t count,” Wallace said.

Wallace hopes that won’t happen on November 2, when voters head to the polls to elect a new sheriff, constable and county court judge.

“In some ways it’s very good news for the voters of Hinds county because they’re in store, or shall I say, we’re in store for a very spirited, special election with a lot of candidates who obviously want the job,” said political scientist and Millsaps College professor Nathan Shrader. “The difficulty, however, that presents is with that many candidates, the voters’ job gets a little more difficult, because then they’re responsible for trying to learn more about those candidates, trying to figure out who’s who [and] sort through the differences between them.”

3 On Your Side got information from each candidate’s social media posts to see how many years of law enforcement experience they had.

Two candidates did not respond to our requests for that information.

The candidates running for Hinds County sheriff are: Brandon Caston (unknown), Marshand Crisler (almost 20 years), Colendula Green (almost 17 years), Beverly Harris-Williams (31 years), Tyree Jones (22 years), Cheryl Matory (27 years), Torrence Mayfield (20 years), Leon Seals (26 years), Richard Spooner (28 years), Les Tannehill (over 30 years), Reginald Thompson (41 years), Eric Wall (35 years) and Ather West Sr. (unknown).

“I think a key follow up question is not just why are you the most experienced and what does your experience look like in relationship with the other candidates, but it’s what ideas, what fresh ideas can you bring to bear that the other 12 of the candidates simply haven’t haven’t thought about yet or haven’t haven’t proposed yet?” Shrader said.

Voters also have less time to make their decisions.

Absentee voting begins on September 20, and the election itself is less than two months away.

“They’re going to have to motivate their own base of supporters to vote in droves while also trying to reach voters who never heard of them before,” Shrader said.

Shrader said special elections historically bring with them low turnout, but he believes that could change here because of the importance of the sheriff’s position.

“If you think about the individuals who have most recently served In that position -- Malcolm McMillan, Lee Vance, Tyrone Lewis, Victor Mason -- not necessarily in order, but those are those individuals that had tremendous influence in the county and in the region. And those are huge shoes to fill,” Shrader said.

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