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July 7, 2017 10:50:13 AM
A hearing on candidate Johnny Moore's challenge to the results of Starkville's mayoral race is now set for Thursday after scheduling issues with the presiding judge forced the event to be pushed back.
Originally set for Tuesday, the hearing before Special Judge Barry W. Ford is now scheduled two days later at 10 a.m. at the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court Annex, Deputy Civil Clerk Tina Mullins said Thursday.
Ford was appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court to hear an election challenge filed by attorney Johnny Moore after he lost May's mayoral runoff by six votes.
Moore filed a petition for judicial review one day before the Starkville Democratic Election Committee, at his behest, was scheduled to hear his initial challenge.
The Democratic group went on to affirm Spruill's victory after Moore's attorney, William Starks, argued a signature issue between the city and the party meant the election was invalid and Starkville breached the agreement by using paper ballots instead of machines.
Moore's claim also alleged other issues -- Starkville election commissioners incorrectly rejected at least nine affidavits, while more than 60 absentee ballots have issues; numerous ballots contained improper and illegal marks; and the number of signatures in voter receipt and poll books from certain precincts did not match the number of ballots cast in the runoff -- but Starks, in the SDEC hearing, declined to push those topics, saying a court order would be required to open ballot boxes since the matter was now filed with the court system.
Attorneys Jim Mozingo and Lydia Quarles, who represent Spruill, submitted a motion to Ford asking the judge to dismiss Moore's challenge since the candidate effectively abandoned his challenge during the SDEC hearing.
The court has a limited jurisdiction and can only review the SDEC's decision, Spruill's motion to dismiss states, and since Moore effectively abandoned his challenge and an amended petition for judicial review filed after the hearing neither appeals nor acknowledges the party's ruling, the jurisdiction of the court has not been invoked.
Ford served District 1 as a circuit judge for about 10 years and as Pontotoc's municipal judge for about 12 years. He is one of almost 40 retired judges with senior status who hear cases in which local judges recuse or unable to preside over for other reasons.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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