County leaders want to stop election from happening

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email | Twitter

BAY SPRINGS, MS (WDAM) - Voters in Jasper, Simpson, Smith and Covington counties are set to go to the polls on November 2nd to vote for a circuit court judge, but a complaint, filed in Jasper County Circuit Court could put a stop to it.

The only candidate for the position, incumbent Judge Robert Evans, died in July. His death left an empty ballot and now the Secretary of State's Office is saying the election must go on, with a write-in ballot, which some county leaders say is not the right thing to do and goes against state and federal election laws.

"All we are doing by filing this complaint is standing up for the voters and their rights in this district," said Jasper County Circuit Clerk Billy Rayner.

Rayner is one of four people hoping for an injunction. The other three, also listed as plaintiffs in the case are Circuit Clerks Anthony Grayson of Smith County and Cindy Jensen of Simpson County, as well as Covington County Election Commissioner Richard Aultman. All say writing a candidate in would be a disservice to voters.

"A lot of people don't know the qualifications and if they vote for an unqualified voter, their vote will be just wasted," said Rayner.

Rayner says calling a special election during next years general election would be the best solution, giving candidates more time to qualify and not costing the taxpayers any additional money because an election is already scheduled.

"That would also give voters time to become accustomed to the candidates and their positions," said Rayner.

Governor Haley Barbour already appointed a new judge to serve out the rest of Judge Evans' term. A court date for the complaint to be heard has not been set, but if the injunction is denied, Rayner says the election will do more harm than good.

"We believe that if this write in election is conducted in this manner, it'll be tied up in courts for years to come and will only make a bad situation worse," said Rayner.

Copyright 2010 WDAM. All rights reserved.