Judge alters deadline in case of Wilkinson County election dispute

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

WOODVILLE &045;&045; A judge has shortened the deadline for attorneys to file briefs in a disputed election case in Wilkinson County.

Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens told lawyers Friday morning to file their findings of fact in the case by day’s end.

Owens had originally set a deadline of Oct. 31 for those filings.

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&uot;Judge Owens called us around 10 this morning. We’re feverishly trying to put it together now,&uot; Natchez attorney John R. Junkin II said.

Junkin, who represents incumbent District 2 Supervisor Kirk Smith, said Owens indicated she wanted to consider the case this weekend and may issue a ruling early next week.

Owens was appointed by the state Supreme Court to hear a complaint filed in Wilkinson County Circuit Court by candidate Richard Hollins.

Hollins ran against Smith in the Democratic primary elections.

After a runoff election on Aug. 26, Smith was declared the winner by an 11-vote margin.

But Hollins claimed absentee and affidavit ballots were improperly rejected by poll workers, among other allegations.

Owens heard eight hours of testimony in the case in Woodville on Wednesday. Witnesses testified with regard to at least 25 absentee or affidavit ballots that were rejected and not counted in the election.

Some of those ballot applications were not notarized or witnessed, while others were not signed at all. Other ballots were apparently rejected because the voters’ names did not appear on the poll books, although the voters testified they were properly registered.

Testimony also indicated that some people who voted in the race did not live in District 2.

According to Wilkinson County Circuit Clerk Mon Allen, ballots for the Nov. 4 general election were ordered from the printer on Wednesday night after the court hearing. Allen said the District 2 supervisor race was omitted from the ballot.

Owens can either declare a winner in the race or call for a new election. Since no Republican or independent candidates qualified for the race, the winner between Smith and Hollins will assume office on Jan. 1.