Election Contest Headed To High Court
WATER VALLEY – The Feb. 6 ruling by Special Circuit Judge Jeff Weill ordering a new election for sheriff in two of the county’s 12 precincts was appealed last week. Democratic sheriff’s candidate Luther G. Folson, Jr. filed a Notice of Appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court in the Yalobusha County Circuit Clerk’s office on Friday, March 6.
The appeal comes after Folson contested the Nov. 5 election in which independent candidate Mark D. Fulco was certified the winner by two votes – 2569 to 2,567 votes. A former Hinds County Circuit Judge, Weill was appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court to hear the case. Weill presided over a bench trial on Jan. 27 and issued a verbal ruling the next day, stating that a new election is warranted in two of the county’s precincts – Beat 1 North, Water Valley and Beat 4, Oakland. His ruling also stated that the election results in the remaining 10 precincts were validated, except that one vote would be added for Fulco in the Beat 5, Coffeeville precinct.
Nine days later, on Feb. 6, Weill filed the Ruling of the Court and Final Judgment in Yalobusha County Circuit Court. Folson had 30 days from the Feb. 6 order to appeal the ruling and his filing came on the last business day before the deadline.
Prior to the appeal, election officials in the county were awaiting word from the Governor’s office after Weill also ordered that his judgment be sent to Governor Tate Reeves so he could set a new election date for the two precincts. Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney reported Folson’s Notice of Appeal was immediately forwarded to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The appeal means there will be no special election until the matter is resolved by the state’s highest court. Burney said that it is too early to determine when the case will be on the court docket. The Mississippi Supreme Court meets for two terms a year. The first term begins on the second Monday in September and the second term begins on the first Monday in March. The Supreme Court holds its terms in Jackson.
If the Supreme Court affirms the ruling, the special election ordered in the lower court ruling will proceed. If the ruling is overturned, a new trial would likely follow in Circuit Court.