Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Tony Rook removes ballots from a ballot box after Judge Barry Ford ordered it open during Monday's hearing. Ford reviewed ballots for consideration during a hearing in Johnny Moore's challenge of last year's mayoral election in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
July 3, 2018 10:12:13 AM
A ruling in Johnny Moore's challenge of last year's mayoral election is only about three weeks away.
Judge Barry Ford announced his intention to rule on the case, which is now more than a year old, on July 20 during a hearing in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court on Monday.
Moore is challenging his six-vote election loss to Mayor Lynn Spruill in last May's Democratic Primary runoff.
"It is apparent to the court that there were two really good candidates running for mayor because the community is almost equally divided as to who should be mayor," Ford said. "Ms. Spruill, you're mayor, and you may well be mayor after this. You may not. I'm just gonna call it like I see it and I'll call it on the 20th."
Ford will meet with attorneys on the afternoon of July 19. That meeting is not open to the public, but it's possible he may give some indication as to how he intends to rule.
The case's next hearing is set for 10 a.m. on July 20.
On Monday, Ford ordered an election box open to possibly review several of the affidavit and absentee ballots that are in question. In all, nine affidavit and absentee ballots have been called into question. Moore's team presented eight of the ballots, arguing they were not counted and should have been, while Spruill's presented one.
During a trial in April, Ford said he would accept the ballot of David A. Moore, who testified to living in the city. David Moore's ballot was rejected because the Statewide Elections Management System reported he was not registered in the city.
Ford offered no indication on Monday as to whether he'll accept any additional ballots that were up for review.
Spruill's team has also argued that 52 absentee ballots, by the testimony of an expert witness Moore's team called during the trial, are "fatally" deficient and shouldn't be counted.
Jim Mozingo, an attorney who, along with Lydia Quarles, is representing Spruill, said the team will wait to see what Ford has to say. He said there wasn't much to glean from Monday's hearing.
"It's one of those things where due process is working and this is the way it's supposed to work," Mozingo said, "and unless you're a lawyer you don't understand why it seems to move so slowly. But the wheels of justice were not necessarily meant to grind rapidly."
William Starks, an attorney representing Moore, said he's optimistic about Ford's pending ruling.
"I think he's gonna hold it pretty close to the vest until the 20th, which is fine with us," Starks said. "We're glad to finally have the end in sight."
Starks has previously said Moore is seeking, primarily, to be named the winner, if the court finds that he received more votes than Spruill. Alternately, Moore is seeking a new election.
Ford did overturn the results of a November town marshal election in Okolona, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, ordering the original certified Democratic primary winner out of office and ordering a new general election.
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