Plaintiffs plan write-in election appeal

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to stop a November write-in election for a judicial post in Covington, Jasper, Simpson and Smith counties will file an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Jasper County Circuit Clerk Billy Rayner told the Laurel Leader-Call that a write-in election is not in the best interest of voters and the matter should be settled by the Supreme Court.

“We have come this far,” Rayner said. “We still don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the voters of our counties, so we have to go all the way.”

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Special Circuit Judge Henry Lackey last week denied to motion to stop the election and dismissed the lawsuit.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Evans died in July. He was the only candidate to qualify for the position in the 13th Judicial District. No candidate’s name will appear on the ballot for the judicial post, and the only way to cast a vote is by write-in.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his staff have been fanning out across south Mississippi leading up to the Nov. 2 election to explain the process.

Hosemann’s office has also disseminated information about how the write-in ballots would be handled on electronic voting machines — one of the issues raised by plaintiffs in the District 13 lawsuit.

According to the secretary of state’s office, a voter will choose “Write-In” on the electronic machine, a touch pad will prompt the voter to type the name of a candidate. On affidavit or absentee ballots, a voter will use pencil and paper for the write-in portion.

Hosemann said he hopes voters will take the process seriously.

“Voting for a ’Donald Duck’ or a ’Mickey Mouse’ is not funny; it’s a mockery of our democracy,” Hosemann said in a written statement. “Our servicemen and women fight and die for your right to cast a ballot.”

Lackey expressed some reservations about the write-in election as he upheld its legality. Lackey said he was concerned about “the consequences” of holding an election where the qualifications of a candidate, especially a judicial candidate, would not be verified.

Rayner said the plaintiffs in the case were just concerned about the manner in which the election is going to be held.

“We just don’t think write-in is the proper way to go,” Rayner said. “There are qualifications that a person needs to qualify as a candidate and that has not been met.”