Temporary Restraining Order Issued in Ballot Dispute

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday.

Pike County election commissioner, Trudy Berger, a Democrat, wanted to stop the Mississippi secretary of state's office from sending out sample ballots with the Wicker-Musgrove Senate race near the bottom.

Wednesday evening, the Mississippi Supreme Court dissolved that order.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, mailed the ballots out to the county election commissioners.

But those ballots could be recalled with another ruling from Judge Green.

"I took an oath to uphold the law and all I'm asking is that y'all do the same," said Berger.

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour ruled to keep the special election Senate race near the bottom of the ballot, as special elections have been listed in 2002, when Musgrove was governor, 2004, and 2006.

Berger's attorney did the talking in a circuit court hearing to move the race up the ballot.

"I am trying to get her to order, issue an order, saying that the ballot the secretary of state's office issued is unlawful and to send out the corrected ballot," said attorney Sam Begley.

Arguments from both sides are based on two state laws. Statute 23-15-367 gives the order races are to appear on a ballot. However, it does not specify if the order is for a regular election or a special election. And that's what the governor's attorney told Judge Green.

"It was not meant for a ballot, for the placement of those people who are running for special election. It was meant for placement of those people running for a regular election," said Barbour's attorney, John Henegan.

State law does say a special election must be "clearly distinguished" from the regular election. Historically, the state has done that by placing special elections near the bottom of the ballot.

"The statute we're talking about is very plainly read to me that you put all national races in one place and don't take the most prominent election in our state today and put it at the bottom of the ballot," said Begley.

Judge Green has yet to issue her ruling. Attorney General Jim Hood, A Democrat, issued a statement saying the election commissioners in all 82 counties have a statutory duty to place the Wicker-Musgrove race with the other regular U.S. Senate race, contrary to what is shown on the secretary of state's sample ballot.

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