Mississippi election commissioner Gail Welch is under fire for a social media comment in which she voiced concern that “the blacks” are holding a lot of voter registration events and suggested that white Mississippians should counter the efforts.
- According to the Hattiesburg American, Welch posted in a Facebook comment, "I'm concerned about voter registration in Mississippi. The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too."
- Welch, who has served in her post as the Beat 1 commissioner for 20 years, told the newspaper that she had no racist intent in making the comment: "We've always in the past had whites really participating in registering to vote. So many people don't seem to be concerned about (voting)."
- She also said she thought she was sending a private message and didn’t realize the comment would be posted publicly, telling the publication, "This was an error on my part.”
- Welch admitted she could have worded her comment better but failed to see why people were upset.
"I was just trying to strike a match under people and get them to vote — to get everybody to vote," she said. "This was not intended to be anything."
"A lot of my friends have jumped to my defense, which I really appreciate," she said. "I don't like this kind of stuff. I don't mean anything by it.
"I have worked hard to make sure everybody is registered to vote — Black or white, everybody — that's just how I am."
Sen. Juan Barnett, whose district includes part of Jones County, said Welch’s words gave the impression of racism, regardless whether she meant it.
- Barnett told the newspaper: "It's those kind of things that people say until somebody brings it to their attention and then it's not what they said or it's not what they meant.”
"I don't know if she is racist or not. But it's the just undertone and stuff of what people say that gives the illusion that that's what you are, based on what was said."
- Barnett also said that Welch’s words potentially call into question the integrity of the Jones County election commission.
"With people saying that kind of stuff, it makes them question, if this person is over the election, are they really going to run this?" Barnett said. "Are they really going to do what they say they're going to do? It puts that office that you're holding … now there's some credibility issues with that office. Not necessarily with you, but in that office."