[Image via sunjoy.us]

A regular theme of this blog is that “there is no small stuff in elections” – and the latest example comes from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, where a missing thumb drive has turned a close state Senate race upside down. The Sun-Herald has more:

The District 50 Senate race was one of the closest on the Mississippi Coast, but it’s taken another turn with the Wednesday recovery of a thumb drive full of votes.

With all precincts in Tuesday night, incumbent Rep. Scott DeLano held a 33-vote lead over Biloxi City Councilwoman Dixie Newman. That lead was without the affidavit [provisional] votes, but DeLano declared the victory late Tuesday evening.

“We look at these elections and see how many affidavits that are out there. It’s very unusual to make a really big difference in the outcome,” told the Sun Herald Tuesday night. “Even though it’s razor-thin, we expect it to fall in line with what the vote came out of those individual precincts.”

That all changed with the discovery that not all Election Day votes had made it into the final tally:

It wasn’t the affidavits, but a thumb drive that changed the race Wednesday afternoon.

“There was a drive that was left out from the D’Iberville Civic Center,” Newman’s campaign manager Holly Gibbes said. “Those numbers were never counted. (Harrison County Circuit Clerk) Connie Ladner‘s office produced that thumb drive today and added it in.

“The thumb drive and all the affidavits, absentees and what could be counted is what put Dixie up by one vote.”

The race isn’t yet over, however; voters who cast provisional (affidavit) ballots because they lacked voter ID can validate their votes in the next few days:

Gibbes said there are still three affidavit votes that have yet to be certified. Those three voters have 96 hours to bring their photo IDs to Ladner’s office in the Gulfport courthouse. Those individuals and their votes are only known by Ladner.

In Mississippi, a voter ID law went into effect in 2014 requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. If a voter shows up without one, they can still vote, but they have 96 hours to show their ID to the election officials to certify their vote.

As you might expect, both candidates are watching the process closely and hoping things go their way:

Newman told the Sun Herald that the affidavits may not even affect the District 50 race, but that won’t be known until Thursday morning. If none of them affect the race, it could be certified in favor of Newman.

Newman said this turn of events has been crazy, but also a “blessing.”

“I’m so proud of my supporters and campaign for keeping with a positive message. We never have done anything but keep a positive message,” Newman said. “We prayed and placed it in God’s hands. I couldn’t be more excited for this result, but we will stay humble and wait until it’s official.”

DeLano’s campaign has not yet responded to our requests for comment, but a statement was posted on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“This election has not been certified,” DeLano posted. “There have been some additional issues with recent number counts today. This is why we stress that every vote counts. I’m going to stand strong on this and make sure we have a fair election.”

Problems like Harrison County’s missing thumb drive are the kinds of issues election officials can (and should) worry about on Election Night and afterwards. It will be interesting to see an explanation for the mix-up, especially if there is a recount or other legal action in the aftermath of the razor-thin race. Until then, two candidates are watching the clock – as is anyone else interested in the District 50 outcome.

Stay tuned …