Pearl River County Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith Challenges Election Results for Tax Assessor/Collector Race

Published 1:12 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

Pearl River County Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith has stated in response to recent questions surrounding his challenge of the election results in the County Tax Assessor/Collector race. Smith provided a memorandum outlining the issues and the election contest process.

In the August 8th Republican primary election, Smith secured 45% of nearly 8,700 votes, leading to a runoff against Jo Lynn Houston, who received 33% of the votes. On the night of the runoff election, August 27th, unofficial and incomplete results showed Smith ahead by two votes. These results included approximately 250 absentee ballots but omitted seventeen absentees received in the days just before the election. These, along with unverified affidavit ballots and any absentee votes received over the following week, would be counted once the legally mandated time had elapsed. After including accepted absentee and approved affidavit votes, the final certified results showed Smith trailing by three votes.

Unlike some states, Mississippi does not permit vote recounts but allows for meticulously examining all election materials under strict controls and timelines. Smith opted for this examination to verify the final results’ accuracy. The examination was conducted by representatives from both Smith’s and Houston’s camps under the supervision of Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes. Based on the examination’s findings, Smith filed an election contest, as provided for in the state’s election laws.

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Once filed, the Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice appoints a Judge to hear the case. Retired Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill of Jackson was designated for this role on September 25th, with a trial date set for December 4th and 5th. Notably, the trial’s timing means that Houston’s name will appear on the November general election ballot as an unopposed candidate for the office.

Smith’s Petition for Judicial Review highlights several issues while examining ballots and related materials. Some key concerns include ballots cast for Smith but need to be correctly recorded, improperly counted ballots lacking initialing by precinct managers, and affidavit and absentee votes for Houston that did not meet statutory requirements for acceptance. Smith contends that, with these ballots correctly counted, the Court could declare him the election winner.

In addressing these issues, Smith recognized that no election is ever flawless but stressed the importance of ensuring that every legally and properly cast vote is counted to protect the election system’s integrity.

Once the contest is heard, Judge Weill, sitting without a jury, will assess the evidence and materials presented and issue one of three possible decisions: (1) confirm the certified results; (2) declare Smith as the winner with the most legally cast votes; or (3) order a new election, should it be impossible to determine the voters’ will. If a new election is necessary, the Governor will set the date.

Smith expressed gratitude to his supporters and the voters of Pearl River County as the process unfolds, anticipating a favorable resolution in early December. He also acknowledged the professional work of Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes and her staff in ensuring the materials’ integrity during the examination and contest.