Investigators seek answers after poll workers locked in courthouse

An investigation continues into how three tea party members got locked in the Hinds County courthouse with uncounted ballots Wednesday night.

A statement said a door was either propped open or malfunctioning. Workers were seen fixing a door on the back west side of the building Thursday. The door appeared to be sticking.

Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry said he received a call about 2 a.m. from Janis Lane, a tea party official, about being locked in the courthouse.

“She called me as I was getting out of my car and said that she was in the courthouse, locked in, and couldn’t get out, and it took me a minute or two for that to register and exactly what she meant,” Perry said.

Election officials had wrapped up their work and gone home about 11:30 p.m.

Those three McDaniel campaign workers showed up well after midnight.

Election Commission Chairman Connie Cochran said the votes were all locked up.

“All the ballots that are being considered to be counted are all secured in the circuit clerk’s office in the vault, so that’s not at jeopardy. It’s just rather bizarre that someone would be walking around in the courthouse at 2 (a.m.),” Cochran said.

The McDaniel campaign released a statement, saying theY did send representatives to the courthouse.

“They entered the courthouse through an open door after being directed by uniformed personnel,” the statement indicated.

But a statement from Hinds County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Othor Cain said, “No employee of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office assisted these individuals with gaining access to the courthouse.”

“No one is supposed to be in the Hinds County Courthouse at 2 (a.m.) unless they are accompanied by a Hinds County election commissioner on election night,” Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham said.