Mississippi Judge Sides With Democrats on Ballot Issue

Posted September 12, 2008 at 1:45pm

A Mississippi circuit court judge Friday afternoon ordered state election officials to revise general election ballots so that the special Senate election between appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove appears at the top of the ballot along with all other candidates seeking national office.

The original ballot — presented by Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and approved by Gov. Haley Barbour (R) earlier this week — had placed the Senate race near the bottom of the ballot, below all local races. That ballot was immediately challenged by a Pike County election commissioner because she said it would cause confusion among voters and result in a significant undervote.

Democrats were particularly upset by the original ballot because they believe that a drop-off in votes would most likely affect Democratic-leaning voters, especially low-income and minority voters.

Republicans are expected to appeal the circuit court ruling to the state Supreme Court.

If they do, it would not be the first time this year that the state’s highest court would rule on an issue affecting the Senate special election. In February, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision over the date of the special election.

In that dispute, Democrats had hoped to have the special election take place this past spring, figuring Wicker would be less established and have a tougher time holding onto the seat he was appointed to less than two months before.

In the end, however, the Supreme Court agreed with the original timetable laid out by Barbour that set the date for the special election to coincide with the November general election.