MAYORAL ELECTION CONTEST: Attorneys to prepare final documents

From left: Pete Perry prepares to review a document presented by Attorney Jim Mozingo during the mayor election contest hearing on Wednesday. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
LOGAN KIRKLAND
Staff Writer

The legal teams for Mayor Lynn Spruill and Democratic mayoral candidate Johnny Moore were directed to prepare final documents after concluding witness testimonies.

Special Judge Barry Ford asked for attorney Jim Mozingo, representing Spruill and attorney William Starks, representing Moore, to begin preparations to have their proposed finding of facts and conclusions to the court.

The court will reconvene Thursday at 1 p.m. at Oktibbeha County Circuit Court to discuss  whether each attorney would like to move anymore documents into evidence.

Before concluding, Ford said he has a total of 10 ballots in question. Those ballots include eight affidavit ballots and one absentee being challenged by Starks and one absentee being challenged by Mozingo.

Ford already ruled in court on Tuesday he would accept one of the ballots challenged by Starks.

The ballot belonged to David Moore, who was called to the witness stand Monday. Moore said his address was on Highway 182 West, which was earlier stated in the court that it was interchangeable with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The reason the ballot was initially rejected was the address was thought to be in the county.

Ford said what he currently has is a six-vote difference between Spruill and Moore, but he will make the determination on the discrepancies regarding Ward 1.

When counting the ballots in Ward 1, Starks established their count totaled to 170 votes for Moore and 203 votes for Spruill. There was one ballot in the accepted ballots folder showing a vote for "none of the above."

The initial count in Ward 1 had 170 votes for Moore and 204 votes for Spruill.

Ford said he knows there were some other discrepancies in other wards, and he will decide on those, as well. His decision on the ward discrepancies will come after discussion with the election commissioners who have been present for the entire hearing.

Mozingo raised the question about 52 ballots that were accepted to be disqualified and Ford said he would determine on how to handle that.

Once each legal team receives a transcript of the hearing, they each will have no less than 15 days to complete their proposed finding of facts and conclusions to the court.

COURT PROCEEDINGS

Mozingo cross-examined expert witness Pete Perry, questioning him about the specific nature of his ballot box examination. A chart was submitted into evidence, which showed the number from the scanning of the documents.

"This just backed up my count," Perry said.

Mozingo brought a list of 52 different accepted absentee ballots, which Perry thought had "fatal deficiencies." He said a number of the voters did not sign across the flap of the envelope.

Mozingo continued to ask Perry about his findings during the ballot box examination and to clarify questions about the identification system used during elections.

Perry was excused from the witness stand and Spruill's team called Dolton McAlpin to the witness stand. 

McAlpin is an attorney in Starkville who has experience in elections where he examined primary results and signed paperwork to allow a supervisor candidate to contest an election. He also conducted a municipal election.

McAlpin gave his testimony on his findings when examining the ballot boxes. He provided his own count, showing their count matched with Moore's team except for in Ward 6.

McAlpin was given a couple of ballots to provide his opinion on whether the ballots should be deemed spoiled. He then said he would have marked all of the ones provided to his as spoiled.

Ford said he would be accepting the ballots Spruill's team were trying to identify as spoiled.

Spruill's team then called Patti Drapala, who was chair of the Municipal Executive Committee for the Democratic Party at the time of the election. She discussed in detail the process of the Democratic Party's hearing over the election contest.

Ford said he already accepted the hearing, so there was no need to continue with questioning Drapala about the contest.

Election Commissioner P.C. "Mac" McLaurin was called to the witness stand by Spruill's team to discuss the proceedings of the night of the election.

He said it's different when the legal teams have the chance to review, study and rationalize the different ballots, but at time of the election they did not have that luxury.

"The commission made in their opinion the best decision based upon the information available to us at the time," McLaurin said.

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