No ruling in Wilkinson County election case

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

VIDALIA — Those waiting for Judge Jim Person’s final ruling in the Wilkinson County election contest will have to wait a little longer.

Persons entered an interim order for the matter last Thursday, in which he said he would schedule a conference call for all involved parties for Monday to hash out some details, and after that he would issue a final ruling.

But scheduling conflicts for Persons delayed the conference call Monday, said circuit clerk candidate Lynn Tolliver Delaney, one of the respondents in the hearing.

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Delaney said she received the news from her attorney Amy Ryan, and she is not concerned with the delay.

“I still trust the court will do everything within the time frame allotted by the Supreme Court,” Delaney said.

In the interim order, Persons said he would call for a new election, which would be conducted by a special master, a neutral third party.

The matter before Persons was filed by Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen, District Two Supervisor Richard Hollins and Sheriff Reginald “Pip” Jackson in response to a Sept. 6, 2007, decision by 17 of the 31 members of the Wilkinson County Democratic Executive Committee to discard all paper ballots from the Aug. 7 Democratic primary.

That decision was fueled largely by accounts of fraud in the absentee, affidavit and curbside ballots by Delaney, district two supervisor candidate Kirk Smith and sheriff candidate Jessie Stewart.

With the paper ballots discarded, declared wins for Allen, Hollins and Jackson were reversed.

Delaney, Smith and Stewart filed responses to the incumbents’ suit, and the matter was before the court from late November until Feb. 21.

On Feb. 21, Persons ruled he could not trust the paper ballots as evidence before the court because no one could establish a chain of custody ensuring they had not been tampered with between the election and the time the matter came before the court.

The decision to call for a new election was made because, with the discarding of the paper ballots, the will of Wilkinson County’s voters could not be determined, Persons said.