Lawsuit Filed over Placement of Senate Race - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 09/09/08

Lawsuit Filed over Placement of Senate Race

By Jon Kalahar
jkalahar@wlbt.net

Because Trent Lott retired in the middle of his term as United States Senator, a special election will be held to determine who will replace him. That special election will be included with the upcoming general election November 4.

In Mississippi, special elections have always been placed at the bottom of the ballot -- even ones as important as who will be Mississippi's next United States Senator.

On the Secretary of State's recommendation, Governor Haley Barbour approved the sample ballot to be used in November's election. It will include the race for President, the othe race for the U.S. Senate, and the entire state supreme court. But it's where the race between Roger Wicker and Ronnie Musgrove is actually located on the ballot that was called into question.

"What I saw today was an absolutely lawless decision of the Secretary of State and the Governor," said Tim Phillips, Ronnie Musgrove's campaign manager.

Phillips wanted the Wicker-Musgrove race moved up the ballot. Attorney General Jim Hood concurred, citing a change the Mississippi Code in 2000 that lays out the ballot with national races first and statewide races to follow.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Barbour disagreed with Hood, saying the special election must be clearly marked for voters. Mississippi has always done that by placing special elections at the end of the ballot.

"It seems to me this is a special election, and we need to follow the rules we've always followed," said Hosemann.

Plus, the new electronic voting booths notify voters if they did not vote on a particular race.

"You'd have to three times determine that you do not want to vote in this election," said Barbour. "You have to push the button to say I'm not gong to vote in that election."

Hosemann said in the 2007 election voting from the top of the ballot to the bottom dropped off less than two percent, a minimal amount by his estimation.

The Musgrove campaign believes this will confuse voters.

"People are going to see millions of dollars in advertising on this race, and then they are going to go looking for it and it's not going to be at the top of the ballot," said Phillips.

This issue isn't over. The Pike County Elections Commissioner, Trudy Berger, has filed a lawsuit against the gorverno to keep the state from sending out the sample ballots with the Musgrove-Wicker race at the bottom.

Berger feels voters will be confused and skip the race unintentionally.

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