Judge orders Canton Election Commission to certify 2021 general election results
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A special judge appointed to preside over the Canton election controversy has ordered Canton’s Municipal Election Commission (CMEC) to certify the 2021 general election results.
The decision, which was handed down by Senior Status Judge Jeff Weill Monday, is a victory for Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson, who filed suit after commissioners refused to certify results in the 10 days following the election.
“CMEC is required to either certify the winners of the general election or to order a new election after holding a hearing to determine if the facts warrant doing so,” Weill wrote. “Since the latter was not done - and, frankly was not a realistic possibility given the facts of the case - the CMEC’s only option per statute is to certify the election results.”
Under the order, the commission must certify the results of the mayor’s race, as well as the council races for Wards 3, 4, 6 and 7 within seven days.
The commission did not sign off on the results, saying that a judge had declared the actions of the group that oversaw the Democratic primary invalid.
Weill says state statute allows the commission to call new elections at individual precincts in certain circumstances, such as candidates or candidate surrogates campaigning within 150 feet of a voting precinct.
The statute limits commissioners’ power to call for new election specific to ballot boxes, not all boxes in a multi-precinct election, Weill wrote.
To hold a city-wide election, the commission must prove that all precincts failed to follow the law.
“Here, however, there is no indication that the commission has made any determination that that circumstance occurred,” Weill opined.
Canton’s elections this year have been fraught with controversy, including the fact that two Democratic Executive Committees were formed to certify candidates for the party primary ballot.
In a June 15 order, Senior Status Judge Jeff Weill ruled that the committee was illegally formed and that its actions were nullified.
New elections were ordered in the races for Wards 1, 2 and 5 primaries after the results were challenged in circuit court. None of the candidates faced a challenger in the general election and all of those candidates have since been sworn in.
“All that remains is for the mayor’s race and the races in Wards 3, 4, 6 and 7 to be certified so that those elected may be sworn in to serve,” Weill wrote.
Weill’s ruling comes less than a month after a jury found that Mayor William Truly could remain in office, despite the fact that his name wasn’t properly added to the general election ballot.
Truly, a Democrat, defeated Republican Chip Matthews by a vote of 739 to 498.
Matthews has since filed a motion to have the verdict set aside.
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