Special judge appointed to rule on mayoral results

Lynn Spruill, left, and Johnny Moore will soon see the challenge over the mayoral results considered in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.

A special circuit court judge has been appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court to oversee Democratic mayoral candidate Johnny Moore’s formal challenge of the results of the May 16 runoff for mayor.

Judge Barry W. Ford, who previously served as 1st District circuit judge, will be the next to hear the case laid out by Moore’s legal counsel, according to court documents provided to the SDN.

Ford has retired as a county court judge, but is one of 37 judges in Mississippi classified as a senior status judge.

Mississippi state law says: “Retired Court of Appeals, chancery, circuit or county court judges or retired Supreme Court Justices, who have served as a judge or justice for at least eight (8) years and who are either at least sixty-two (62) years of age or are receiving state retirement benefits and who desire to be designated as senior judges of the State of Mississippi shall file a certificate for such designation with the Supreme Court.”

The date for the hearing has not been announced.

Moore’s legal team is asking for the results to be thrown out and a new municipal election held, or for the judge to accept absentee and affidavit ballots that were previously rejected.

After a hearing was held on Tuesday, the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party’s municipal election committee voted based on evidence presented and unanimously decided to declare Spruill the winner in the primary runoff.

However, Moore filed for a petition for judicial review the day before, which moved the matter to Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.

Spruill was named the winner by a six-vote margin of victory - a result that Moore's legal team believes would be overturned if several factors are ruled on in their favor by Ford.

Some of the arguments from Moore's legal team include the claim that the election agreement was not signed by the chair of the Starkville Municipal Democratic Committee, but instead was signed by Albert Gore, Jr.- the chair of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party. Claims also assert that approximately nine affidavit ballots were improperly rejected, in addition to problems with roughly 60 absentee ballots.

Another argument from Moore's team claims the elections were conducted with paper ballots, which goes against the election contract stating it should be conducted with electronic ballots.

Spruill’s attorney Jim Mozingo told the SDN earlier this week that Moore’s team had a chance to present evidence at the hearing Tuesday, but declined to do so. He then said problems found during Spruill’s examination of the ballot boxes would not change the election results in Moore's favor.