A Madison County attorney had a bit of a conniption at last week's meeting of the Madison County Board of Supervisors last week when things didn't go her way. Janice Jackson attempted to qualify for the District 1 Election Commissioner election but failed to submit her qualifying papers to the Chancery Clerk before the deadline. She asked the Board to accept her candidacy but the Board rejected her request. The Madison County Journal reported:
A Madison woman who wanted to run for District 1 Election Commissioner is blaming the Circuit Clerk for not filing her paperwork with the Chancery Clerk and wants a do-over.
Janice Jackson, an attorney, pleaded before the Board of Supervisors on Monday to allow her name on the ballot this November.
Jackson says she turned in her paperwork to Circuit Clerk Anita Wray on June 2, four days before the filing deadline. Wray’s office was to check and make sure the signatures of 50 people on a petition were all registered voters in the appropriate district, Jackson said.
From there, Jackson said she thought Wray would send the qualifying paperwork to Chancery Clerk Ronny Lott, where, by statute, it must be sent.
However, the paperwork was instead misfiled and put with campaign finance reports by a deputy clerk. Jackson didn’t realize the paperwork never made it to Lott until late-June.
She blames the mishap on a “technical irregularity.”
“I knew for 100 percent she was gonna take those papers over to Ronny Lott,” she told supervisors.
“Whose responsibility is it to take it from the circuit clerk to the chancery clerk,” Board President Trey Baxter asked.
Board Attorney Katie Bryant Snell said it was the responsibility of the candidate.
Jackson wasn’t finished though, telling Baxter he “might want to sit back and relax” and she produced stamped exhibits and began questioning “witnesses” at the podium.
Jackson had her husband, who initially dropped off the form to Wray, sworn in before “testifying” that he dropped off the paperwork before the filing deadline.
Jackson then had Wray come up tot he podium and swear-in on a Bible before being questioned, too.
Wray said she never told her that she would deliver her form to Lott’s office and she was mistaken.
“No, no I never told you that,” Wray said. “It’s never been my policy to take anything over to Ronny’s office for any candidate.”
Jackson then called Lott up to the podium and when she asked to swear him in, Lott said he was sworn in when he was elected Chancery Clerk.
After Jackson’s line of questioning, Baxter called Wray back up to the podium and asked her what the normal process was.
“I’m gonna object,” Jackson interrupted.
Baxter then began repeatedly saying that Jackson needed to sit down.
“She has the mic and you need to sit down,” he said.
Wray said the candidates themselves take the paperwork to the chancery clerk’s office.
District 4 Supervisor David Bishop told Jackson that since she was an attorney she should know how important it is to turn over documents to the correct party.
“I would think with your knowledge of laws, statues and regulations…that was your responsibility to take it to the chancery clerk,” he said.
“No, it’s my responsibility to have it there,” she responded.
The tit-for-tat continued for another few minutes before they decided to take the matter into executive session under pending litigation since Jackson announced her plans to fight this in court.
After executive session, supervisors voted to reject her filing paperwork because it was late. Article.
Kingfish note: This problem sounds vaguely familiar. So familiar that a check of the JJ archives reveals that a similar problem erupted in Hinds County four years ago. Readers may remember Election Commissioner Bobbie Graves submitted her qualifying papers a day after the deadline. JJ reported in 2012:
Hinds County Ward 2 Election Commissioner Bobbie Graves did not submit her qualifying papers Monday afternoon as required by law, although she did submit her fifty signatures required by law as well, to the circuit clerk. June 4 at 5:00 pm was the deadline for candidates for election commissioner to submit their qualifying papers to the Chancery Clerk. Ms. Graves did not do so until after 9:00 AM on June 5.
So Ms. Graves did not submit her qualifying papers to the Chancery Clerk before the deadline but did submit them to the Circuit Clerk. Earlier post reporting her disqualification. The statute states:
"Candidates for county election commissioner shall qualify by filing with the clerk of the board of supervisors of their respective counties a petition personally signed by not less than fifty (50) qualified electors of the supervisors district in which they reside, requesting that they be a candidate, by 5:00 p.m. not later than the first Monday in June of the year in which the election occurs and unless the petition is filed within the required time, their names shall not be placed upon the ballot. All candidates shall declare in writing their party affiliation, if any, to the board of supervisors, and such party affiliation shall be shown on the official ballot.
The petition shall have attached thereto a certificate of the registrar showing the number of qualified electors on each petition, which shall be furnished by the registrar on request." Section 23-25-213 of the Mississippi Code
Get that? Qualification is a two-step process. The candidate gets fifty signatures and submits them to the Circuit Clerk for the verification of their voter registration. The candidate then submits the qualifying papers and certified signatures to the Chancery Clerk. The statute says nothing about the Circuit Clerk handing the qualifying papers over to the Chancery Clerk. Ms. Graves went to court and did not like the answer she received from the bench:
The Board was right in rejecting Ms. Jackson's appeal. Ms. Graves does not possess the brightest bulb and her appeal failed because she did not follow a specific part of the law. Ms. Jackson will probably fare no better in court since it is harder for an attorney to claim ignorance of the law. Ms. Wray is correct and should be supported by the Board. It is Ms. Jackson's duty to make sure her qualifying papers are submitted to the Chancery Clerk before the deadline.