State supreme court hears arguments over ballot placement - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 09/17/08

State supreme court hears arguments over ballot placement

By Jon Kalahar

The battle over the ballot was taken to the state supreme court to decide where the Wicker, Musgrove race should appear.

Historically, the state marks special elections by placing them at the bottom of the ballot.

But a year 2000 state legislature change to the law has made that obsolete, according to Attorney General Jim Hood.  

Same arguments, different court.  Governor Haley Barbour and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann appealed circuit court judge Tomie Green's ruling to the state supreme court. Barbour and Hosemann believe current state law does not address placement of special election races on regular election ballots.  In those cases, the Governor should use his best judgement.

"Nowhere at any time during the supreme court discussion today did they indicate that we did not follow the current law and the governor did not make the right decision," said Hosemann.

However, Attorney General Jim Hood says a change to the law in 2000 puts races in the order they are to appear on a ballot, no matter what kind of election.

"The Governor taking a position that will reduce the vote by as much as a third based on Stennis Institute studies ought to be ashamed of himself for placing it at the bottom of the ballot," said Hood.

Hosemann's number disputes Hood's.  Hosemann says during the last general election there was a less than two percent drop off from top to bottom of the ballot.

"This is a blatant attack on Mississippi voters, that's what this is right here.  They're claiming Mississippi voters are not competent enough to cast an entire ballot," said Hosemann.

Hood believes more suits are to follow if the court rules in favor of the Governor and Secretary of State.

"It will be a change in voting and it will be required to be submitted to the Justice Department for pre-clearance, so hopefully the court will get us out of this litigation and quit wasting money on lawyers.  Let's have a full and fair election," said Hood.

The state supreme court did not give a timetable when a ruling might be made.  The Secretary of State is concerned this might cause a delay in absentee voting scheduled to start Monday.

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