OPINION: Letter to the Editor

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James Woods Jr. (Photo: Kwame Shakur)

By James Woods Jr.

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

To my fellow Mississippians and especially the registered voters residing in House District 27:

During my campaign for the 2023 District 27 House of Representatives, I experienced a strong sense of pride and purpose. Running for this office was of great significance to me, as I aimed to contribute to meaningful change and ensure a fair election process. Even in the event of defeat, I would have been satisfied knowing I had fought with integrity. 

As a concerned citizen and registered voter, I am writing this letter because I believe that the rights of registered voters in District 27, specifically those residing in Scott County, have been violated by those in power. As a candidate, I was given incorrect information regarding the newly redrawn district lines, which raises the question of whether other candidates and citizens were adequately notified. 

My decision to enter this race was based on my character, integrity, and genuine desire to assist my neighbors, family, and friends by providing them with an effective representative who would address their needs and concerns accurately. Unfortunately, District 27 often goes unnoticed due to the more populated regions in our state. 

I assembled a dynamic campaign committee, invested my own money, and raised a modest amount of donations to support our campaign efforts. 

It has been an absolute honor, privilege, and joy to run as a 2023 Democratic Candidate for the Mississippi Legislature’s House of Representatives in District 27. My campaign committee and I took this seriously and made significant efforts to inform voters about my candidacy. 

I attended all of the Democratic Party training sessions offered, introduced myself to several community leaders, turned in all required documents and reports to the state in a timely manner, encouraged voters to research all candidates, and promoted voter turnout. 

I am incredibly grateful for the 1,441 people who voted for me on August 8, 2023. I heard your voices loud and clear. 

On March 17, 2023, in accordance with Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-1, the Mississippi Public Records Act, and the Administrative Procedures of the Office of the Mississippi Secretary of State, I requested a copy of all addresses for registered voters in District 27. On March 22, 2023, I received the requested public records files for registered voters. 

These files contained addresses for registered voters in Leake County, Attala County, Madison County, and Yazoo County. However, the files did not include nor mention Scott County. I relied on this information in good faith. 

All of my campaign materials, including a dedicated campaign website, social media platforms, and literature, provided notice and listed each county in the files from the Secretary of State’s office. A dedicated mailer was sent to all registered voters listed in the files one week before the Primary election on August 8, 2023. I also mentioned these counties during my speeches at churches, campaign tour stops, and “meet the candidate” events. Unfortunately, I was unaware of any “meet the candidate” events in Scott County. 

I only became aware that Yazoo County is no longer a part of District 27 the day after the Primary election when unofficial results for Scott County were presented. 

On August 10, 2023, when I inquired with the Secretary of State’s office about Scott County, I was informed that Scott County had not reported to the Secretary of State’s office before they provided me with the requested files. When I further inquired about when the Secretary of State’s office became aware of Scott County being part of District 27 and if they had any protocols or procedures in place to inform a candidate who had paid for the District 27 voter files, I did not receive a response from the Secretary of State’s office. 

Attempts to seek guidance from the Democratic Party led to the recommendation of seeking legal counsel, as they stated they would not get involved. 

My attorney informed me that I can only challenge and re-examine the ballots from the current race and cannot challenge the misinformation provided by the Secretary of State’s office. I decided to initiate a re-examination of the ballots. However, the integrity of the vote is not the root of the issue. The issue is a lack of transparency in the list that I received from the Secretary of State. 

As my campaign tagline states, “It’s all on us!” Some may question why I did not double-check the state’s list or ask the Democratic Party to confirm it. Others may say that this misstep shows incompetence on my part and it’s all my fault that I did not hunt down and rely on a map that was not connected to any official election authority or the Secretary of State. 

It is valid to ask these questions and have these opinions. However, I believe there is still a shared responsibility owed to the registered voters of every district, and second-guessing our Secretary of State’s office is a dangerous position for any candidate or citizen. So, a more efficient concern should not be about me, but about whether or not the voters in Scott County and throughout District 27 were given a fair chance to choose a representative. 

I believe this issue should concern every candidate, regardless of whether he or she won or lost, and all registered voters, regardless of their political affiliations. 

As a citizen and candidate, I must voice my concerns that the 2020 redistricting and newly drawn maps are not easily accessible on the Secretary of State’s website or the Democratic Party’s website. And although it has been some time since redistricting occurred, I still received the wrong information, which in turn disrupted my chances of a fair election. 

So now the question at hand is, how will this be corrected?

Respectfully yours, 

James Woods Jr., 2023 Candidate – District 27 Mississippi House of Representatives James; @voteforjameswoodsjr.com 

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OPINION: Letter to the Editor

By Jackson Advocate News Service
September 5, 2023