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Pearl River County Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith, in responding to recent questions about his challenge of the election results in the race for County Tax Assessor/Collector, today provided a memorandum outlining some of the issues involved and the general process of an election contest.

In the August 8th Republican primary election, Smith received 45% of the almost 8700 votes cast and faced a runoff with Jo Lynn Houston who came in second with 33%. The night of the runoff election, August 27th, unofficial and incomplete results had Smith ahead by two votes. These results included approximately 250 absentee ballots but failed to include seventeen absentees that had been received in the days immediately preceding the election. They, along with affidavit ballots that were still to be verified and any absentee ballots that were received over the following week would be added once a week’s allowed time elapsed. After including accepted absentee votes and approved affidavit votes the results were certified with Smith trailing by three votes.

Unlike some other states, Mississippi does not allow for a recount of votes but does allow an examination of all the election materials under strict controls and timelines. Smith chose to conduct this examination to confirm if the final results were correct. This examination was conducted by representatives of both Smith and Houston under the watch of Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes. Based upon his findings from the examination, Smith filed a contest of the election as provided for in our state’s election laws. Once filed, the Chief Justice of the MS Supreme Court appoints a judge to hear the case; accordingly Retired Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill of Jackson was designated to do so on September 25th and he has set a trial date of December 4th and 5th. In answer to questions posed, Smith acknowledged that with the trial being held after the November general election, Houston’s name will be on that ballot as an unopposed candidate for the office.

There are several items identified in Smith’s Petition for Judicial Review that were found from Smith’s detailed examination of the ballots and all related materials. Some of the primary issues include ballots that were cast for Smith but not properly recorded; ballots illegally counted that were not initialed by an initialing managers at the precinct; and affidavit and absentee votes cast for Houston that did not meet statutory requirements for acceptance. With the proper counting of these ballots, Smith could be declared the winner of the election by the Court.

In discussing these issues, Smith readily acknowledged that no election is ever a perfect election; however, with an election that ends in a virtual tie making sure that every properly and legally cast vote is counted, and only properly and legally cast votes are counted matters to protect the integrity of our election system.

Upon hearing the contest, Judge Weill - sitting without a jury - and after listening to the evidence and viewing the materials presented will issue his decision, which could be any of three: (1) the certified results stand as reported; (2) declare that Smith received the most legally cast votes and declare him the winner; or (3) declare that it is impossible to determine the will of the voters and declare a new election be held. Should a new election be required, the Governor will set the date for the election.

Smith expressed his appreciation to his supporters and to the voters of Pearl River County as this process has moved forward and looks forward to a positive conclusion in early December. He also acknowledged the professional work by Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes and her staff in her role of ensuring the integrity of the materials being maintained throughout the examination and contest.



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