June 15, 2017 10:48:46 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Former 1st District Circuit Judge Barry W. Ford will oversee Starkville attorney Johnny Moore's legal challenge of May's mayoral runoff election.
Ford, who served the district for about 10 years and as Pontotoc's municipal judge for about 12 years, is one of almost 40 retired judges with senior status recognized by the Mississippi Supreme Court. Those with the designation are appointed to cases in which local judges recuse or are unable to hear.
A date for the expected hearing has not yet been set.
Moore is contesting his six-vote loss to Mayor-elect Lynn Spruill on the grounds of numerous election irregularities, including issues with accepted and rejected ballots.
Specifically, Moore's petition for judicial review argues the May 16 runoff election is invalid because of an improper signature on a contract between the Democratic Party and the city, and the contract was breached by using paper ballots instead of machines; election commissioners improperly rejected at least nine affidavits, while more than 60 absentee ballots have issues; numerous ballots contained improper and illegal marks; and the numbers of signatures in voter receipt and poll books from certain precincts did not match the number ballots cast.
An amended filing asks Ford to accept previously rejected affidavit and absentee ballots and find Moore won the race or call for a third mayoral election.
Spruill's co-counsel, Jim Mozingo, previously said Moore's attorney, William Starks, has not presented any compelling evidence as to Moore's claims, Spruill was actually shorted votes in the runoff and counting additional ballots would not change the outcome of the race.
The Oktibbeha County Democratic Party's municipal election committee unanimously affirmed Spruill's victory Tuesday.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch