Judge: New Democratic Party primary election needed in Wilkinson Co.

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chancery Judge Jim Persons has notified the attorneys involved in the long-running Wilkinson County Democratic primary election contest that he intends to call a new election.

Earlier this week, Persons decided that absentee, affidavit or curbside ballots from the Aug. 7 primary election would not be counted because it could not be determined that the ballots had been kept safe from tampering.

“The court cannot rely on the authenticity of the ballots, that they have not been tampered with,” Persons said. “None of the contents of those ballot boxes are to be relied on by the court. I have no confidence in the security of those boxes.”

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Persons said without those ballots the will of the voters could not be determined and a new election must be called.

Persons is expected to issue an official ruling within six days.

Persons has been hearing a challenge to the primary results from Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen, Sheriff Reginald Jackson and county Supervisor Richard Hollins.

The three are challenging the results of a county Democratic Party Executive Committee hearing into the county’s Aug. 7 primary, in which challengers Kirk Smith, Jessie Stewart and Jeanette “Lynn” Tolliver Delaney were declared the winners in the race for supervisor, sheriff and circuit clerk, respectively.

A majority of the committee voted during the hearing to discard the paper ballots cast during the election because of alleged irregularities, and use the electronic voting machine totals as the official results.

Smith, Stewart and Delaney were leading when the polls closed on Aug. 7. Allen, Jackson and Hollins were initially declared the winners after making significant gains following the counting of the paper ballots.