Former ‘railroad’ man steps into political fray
By Othor Cain
After attending a local Democratic caucus meeting earlier this year at Provine High School in Jackson and at the urging of some in attendance. There James Reed left with the understanding that it was his time to offer himself as a public servant. “I really didn’t have this on my radar,” Reed said. “But after being asked to run, praying about it and discussing it with my wife, I decided to do it.”
Reed is seeking the office of Election Commissioner for District 1 in Hinds County. “I have learned since I’ve entered this race that so many people don’t understand how important this job is and don’t even know who their election commissioner is,” Reed said. “This job is way too important, way too huge for the voters in Hinds County not to be familiar with their election commissioner.”
A quick glance at the website for Election Commissioners in Hinds County (http://www.co.hinds.ms.us/pgs/elected/electioncommission.asp), details the following:
Election Commissioners shall be charged with the duty of conducting all facets of activities associated with general and special elections for the county. Election Commissioners are responsible for keeping the poll books of the county. They also keep the registration books, which contain the names of all voters in the county. They are responsible for revising them periodically and keeping them up to date.
With redistricting, Commissioners assign voters to the appropriate district and precinct and revise poll books to conform to changes in boundaries.
Election Commissioners are required by state statute to attend certification training each year, held by the Secretary of State, to be eligible to conduct elections held in the county.
Election Commissioners shall hire all poll workers for an election. They shall be responsible for training all poll workers of their specific duties to be conducted on Election Day.
Election Commissioners shall be among the members of a special tribunal formed to hear election challenges; the special judge is the controlling judge of both the facts of the case and the law. The Election Commissioners sit as the jury in the case and as advisors to the judge.
Reed is on a mission to bring about change to the makeup of the governing board for elections in Hinds County. “In this office you are supposed to work in a non-partisan kind of way, because you represent all voters in your district. Voters and the education of voters should be top priority,” he said. “Handling elections and ensuring that things run smoothly for every election will always be at the top of my list of things to do.”
A Forest County, Mississippi native, Reed attended Tougaloo College. He left Tougaloo to work for Illinois Central Railroad Company. He spent a total of 45 years with the railroad company, climbing the ladder of success before retiring in 2005.
“I became a ‘co-first’ African American engineer in the state of Mississippi and one of the first five to be promoted to locomotive engineer in the country,” Reed enthusiastically shared.
Reed did a three-year stint in the military and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1976.
Having lived in District 1 of Hinds County for 32 years, Reed knows the district well. “I’m well versed with this district. I know where the voters are and I’m trying to touch every single one of them before November,” he said. “I also understand that there’s a pool of nearly 1,000 unregistered voters in our area and we are working daily trying to change that.”
Reed has tracked the voting patterns in recent presidential elections and hopes that voters will vote all the way down the ticket. “I’ve studied the patterns. For example in the 2000 presidential election, you had about 30,000 votes casted for the president in our district, but the voters didn’t complete the ballots,” he said. “For the election commissioners race that was on the same ballot, only about 15,000 people voted. We are determined to change this.”
The election commissioner’s race is held in conjunction with the presidential race every four years. The election this year is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
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