Lynn Spruill is set to become Starkville’s first female mayor after she retained a seven-vote lead over challenger Johnny Moore once affidavits from the Democratic primary runoff were processed Wednesday.
Moore eroded a portion of Spruill’s 12-vote Election Day lead during the processing but couldn’t find enough votes to put him over the city’s former chief administrative officer.
Spruill’s uncertified victory came after the Starkville Election Commission accepted 17 of 43 affidavits after a three-hour processing session.
Another affidavit remained pending and uncounted Wednesday, as its voter failed to show his or her identification at the polls Tuesday.
Voters who do not show identification at polls have five days to return and show an accepted photo identification to election workers.
City Clerk Lesa Hardin said the election commission will certify runoff results at 11:30 a.m. Thursday and address the pending affidavit.
She did not comment on its status late Wednesday.
“I am hopeful that the results remain as they are today. I have been very fascinated by the tightness of the race. It highlights how important it is for residents to get out and vote. My campaign has been preaching that message since we first got out and started knocking on doors,” Spruill said. “I look forward to moving forward with the city, talking to department heads and getting back into public service. The sooner the results are certified, the sooner I can get to work for the public and the community.”
The Moore campaign has not yet committed to an election challenge but has asked the city for permission to inspect absentee ballots disqualified Tuesday, and campaign spokesperson Molly Jackson said she has questions about two to four affidavits kicked out during Wednesday’s process.
Jackson said the campaign is not yet ready to challenge any of the disqualified votes “at this point,” but the option remains before the results are certified.
Mississippi Code Ann. 23-15-921 states a candidate wishing to contest a primary election may challenge specific issues within 20 days after the election. The party is then responsible for assembling a panel to hear the claims, setting a date for the meeting and noticing all involved parties at least five days before it occurs.
If initiated, a challenge would head to the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party’s executive committee and could mirror the process the recent Ward 1 Republican primary objection yielded.
“At this point, we just want to ensure that every vote cast was properly counted or rejected,” Moore said.
The election commission briefly removed all onlookers, including the media, from Wednesday’s public meeting after receiving a complaint from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office about a live stream of the process by a local TV station.
Commissioners said state officials were concerned about the broadcast airing certain sensitive information – including voters’ names, addresses and birth dates – despite members of the public present at the meeting hearing the same information.
After a robust discussion between reporters and election commissioners, members of the media and public were allowed back into the meeting.
Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who has practiced law for more than three decades, was present at City Hall on other business at the time of the incident and said the election commission had no legal authority to ban the media or any resident from the public meeting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch