Spruill certified as winner, Moore to request ballot box examination

Lynn Spruill (courtesy)
Johnny Moore (courtesy)

The heated runoff race for Starkville’s highest office saw the margin separating candidates shrink even more on Thursday morning when election officials and candidates gathered at City Hall to certify results from all primary runoff races.

After quickly certifying the results for the Ward 1 GOP Primary for Board of Aldermen, municipal election officials accepted and unsealed one of the 26 rejected affidavit ballots in the all-Democratic mayoral race and determined the vote was cast for Johnny Moore.

Moore trailed candidate Lynn Spruill by seven votes on Wednesday when affidavit ballots were initially processed.

Moore’s legal counsel William Starks requested a recount from election officials as a courtesy before the results were certified, but was denied the request. The committee can comply with a courtesy request for a recount, but is not required to by state and local law.

“They can do (a recount prior to certification) as a courtesy, there’s no law prohibiting them from doing that,” Starks said. “They’ve got to sign a certification saying that is a true and accurate result, so we believe it’s just one step with such a close election they should have taken to make sure the will of the voter is discerned.”

The official totals have Spruill winning the mayoral race with 1872 votes to Moore’s 1866. The six-vote gap is half the total that originally decided the election before affidavit ballots were processed, when Spruill led by 12 votes at the close of Tuesday night.

Starks said because of the narrow margin separating the two candidates, a recount would simply serve to ensure that the will of the voter has been done.

“We were trying to avoid a full blown election contest, but at this stage we are going to have to do a ballot box examination, that will determine if we are going to do a contest,” Starks said following the certification.

The Oktibbeha County Democratic Executive Committee opted not to allow the courtesy recount request after Spurill’s legal counsel Lydia Quarles said the committee did not have a right to do so.

“You have no statutory authority to do a recount at all,” Quarles told election officials at City Hall Thursday.

The election results were officially certified ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, which opens the window of opportunity for Moore to contest the results.

When the certification was officially signed, the clock began ticking on the 12-day window for Moore to request a ballot box examination with the Municipal Election Committee, along with a 20-day period to file a contest with the committee from the day of certification.

Certified results will now be sent to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.

Moore declined to comment following the results, but told the SDN earlier this week that he had no other future political aspirations other than this race.

Spruill said she is happy for the election process to continue in accordance with the applicable laws.

“In the meantime, I am going to pursue my agenda of meeting with department heads, board members and community leaders so that I can be ready and up to speed on day one,” Spruill said.

If Spruill remains the winner after a challenge by Moore, she would become the first female mayor in Starkville’s history.