Mississippi Court Orders Special Election Following Election Dispute

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

In a recent legal development, the Pearl River County court issued a Final Judgment in response to the contested Republican primary runoff for the Pearl River County Tax Collector/Assessor position. As outlined in its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the court’s decision follows the filing of an Amended Petition for Contest of Election and Judicial Review by the Petitioner, Sandy Kane Smith, against the Respondent, Jo Lynn Houston.

As per Miss. R. Civ. P. 58, the court has fully granted and adjudicated the claims brought by Smith under MCA Section 23-15-927. The Final Judgment, entered on December 27, 2023, orders specific actions in response to the contested election.

The Amended Petition for Contest of Election and Judicial Review filed by Sandy Kane Smith is partially granted and denied.

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A special election for the Tax Collector/Assessor position in Pearl River County is ordered. This election will be conducted solely by election officials in the Picayune Southside 1 and Picayune 2 precincts, following the detailed procedure outlined in the court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

Returns in the remaining 25 precincts are validated as certified, except the Carriere 5 precinct. One vote is to be added to the total received by Sandy Kane Smith in that precinct.

The court vacates the election results, pending the special election’s outcome. No candidate is eligible to be sworn in or enter the Tax Collector/Assessor term from and after January 1, 2024. The current occupant will serve until the exceptional election results are certified and the winning candidate is sworn in.

The Circuit Clerk is directed to forward certified copies of the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Final Judgment to the Governor of Mississippi within five days. This is to facilitate the scheduling of a new election in the two precincts ordered by the court.

The parties involved are responsible for bearing their costs in this legal action.

Sandy Kane Smith expressed contentment and gratitude in response to the court’s decision. He mentioned that he and his team were happy with the outcome, having prayed about it and accepted what they believed the Lord had granted them another chance. Smith emphasized that a desire for a fair election drove his pursuit of this matter, and he thanked those who voted for him while expressing his intent to engage with those who did not.

Smith clarified that his intention was never to waste taxpayer money and commended the poll workers, election commissioners, and the handling of the case by Nance Stokes and her team.

Jo Lynn Houston, the Respondent, chose not to comment on the court’s ruling.