Hearing set today on contested Wilkinson vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

WOODVILLE &045; Unless the state Supreme Court rules otherwise, the Wilkinson County Democratic Executive Committee will hold a hearing today on a petition contesting the results of the Aug. 26 runoff election for District 2 supervisor.

Incumbent Supervisor Kirk Smith was declared the winner in the race by an 11-vote margin.

The runoff came after Smith and challenger Richard Hollins tied in the first primary election on Aug. 5.

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Hollins filed a petition with the committee alleging in part that absentee ballots were improperly rejected by poll workers and voters were paid to vote for Smith.

Hollins also alleges the committee improperly certified the results of the election and denied his request to examine the contents of the ballot boxes.

Last week, Sixth Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders issued an injunction preventing Wilkinson County officials from placing Smith’s name on the November general election ballot until the committee holds a hearing on Hollins’ petition.

Sanders further ordered the committee to hold the hearing by today and allow Hollins to examine the contents of the ballot boxes prior to the hearing.

Represented by Natchez-based attorney John R. Junkin, Smith has asked the state Supreme Court to set aside Sanders’ injunction.

&uot;The statutes are very specific. Once a petition is filed, the Circuit Clerk must immediately notify the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. The court then appoints a judge from outside the district to hear the case,&uot; Junkin said.

&uot;We have filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to dissolve the temporary restraining order,&uot; Junkin said.

&uot;If they do not, then we are prepared to go forth with the hearing.

On Tuesday Junkin said the court had not yet ruled on Smith’s motion.

If the state Supreme Court does not intervene, then the hearing will take place at 9 a.m. today at the Wilkinson County Courthouse.