Wilkinson lawsuit withdrawn

Published 12:26 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

NATCHEZ — A federal lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction to stop to the upcoming Wilkinson County special Democratic elections was withdrawn before its scheduled hearing Wednesday morning.

Natchez Attorney Deborah McDonald, who represented the plaintiffs, withdrew the motion.

The suit, filed by Wilkinson County citizens Robert Morgan, James Joliff Jr. and Eugene Tolliver Jr., alleged the special election called by Judge Jim Persons is in violation of voting law because of how Persons has structured the election.

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Two special masters, Judges Barry Gibbs and Barry Ford, will conduct the election.

The suit alleged the special masters are trying to usurp Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen’s authority as circuit clerk by not allowing him to participate in the handling of absentee ballots.

The request for a temporary restraining order on the election was so a three-judge panel could review the allegations and decide if the election did not violate current voting law.

Allen is a candidate in the special election, and faces challenger Lynn Tolliver Delaney.

Also on the ballot for the special election are Sheriff Reginald “Pip” Jackson and challenger Jesse Stewart, and District Two Supervisor Richard Hollins and challenger Kirk Smith.

Persons called the special election in February after a months-long election contest, in which allegations of widespread illegal ballot use, voter fraud, intimidation and even vote buying were leveled.

Though the issues presented in the contest were never officially resolved, Persons called for a new election after he decided to toss all paper ballots involved in the election.

The ballots were tossed because their integrity was in question and it could not be determined who was their custodian during the months following the August 2007 Democratic primary election.

The special masters were selected to run the election because of the ballot custody issues and because of a rift in the Wilkinson County Democratic Executive Committee that made it practically impossible for the committee to fulfill its proper role in vote verification.

One special provision of Person’s election order, which has been pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, is that the winner of the election will be sworn into office as soon as the votes are certified.

The special primary will be June 24, followed by a special general election, if needed, July 22.