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LYONEL (COTTON) WADE v. FRANK WILLIAMS

DECEMBER 16, 1987

LYONEL (COTTON) WADE
v.
FRANK WILLIAMS, JR., AND TISHOMINGO COUNTY DEMOCRATIC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE



EN BANC.

HAWKINS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Lyonel" Cotton "Wade (Wade) appeals from the decision of the Special Tribunal declaring Frank Williams, Jr. (Williams), winner of the Second Democratic Primary election for the office of supervisor of District One, in Tishomingo County. Wade assigns as error that the Special Tribunal erred in counting ballots in which the voter did not follow the instructions printed on the ballot and that the Special Tribunal erred in determining the intent of the voter. Finding no merit in these assignments, we affirm.

FACTS

 This is a Second Democratic Primary election contest between Wade and Williams, for the office of supervisor of District One, Tishomingo County, held August 25, 1987. The ballot format was created to enable the votes to be counted by an electronic counting device known as an optical mark reader (OMR), pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 23-15-501 et seq. (Supp. 1987), and this is only the second time it had been used in that county. An arrowhead and feather pointed to each candidate's name, with a blank space in the shaft of each arrow. The voter was instructed to fill in the blank space of the shaft of the arrow pointing to the name of the candidate for whom he was voting.

 On August 26 Williams was declared the party nominee by the county executive committee. There was no other party or independent opponent for this office in the general election.

 On August 31 Wade gave notice of application for full examination of the ballot boxes and thereafter filed a formal contest to the certification of Williams as the nominee pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 27-15-911 (Supp. 1987). On September 19 some members of the Tishomingo County Democratic Executive Committee met and reaffirmed their August 26 decision announcing Williams as the nominee. On September 21 Wade filed a petition of protest with this Court within requirements of Miss. Code Ann. 23-15-927 (Supp. 1987). Pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 23-15-929 (Supp. 1987), Hon. Anthony T. Farese, chancellor for the 18th District, was appointed by our Chief Justice to preside over a special tribunal, consisting of Judge Farese and the election commissioners.

 Of the 1,880 ballots cast, the parties eventually

 agreed to all but 53 ballots. Without considering these 53 votes, the candidates' total votes were:

 Wade . . . . . . . . . 921 Williams . . . . . . . 909

 Two of the ballots contested by Williams were because of alleged registration deficiencies. These ballots were voted in favor of Wade and held valid by the special tribunal. The other 51 contested ballots were contested because of the way in which the voter had marked the ballot. The ballots had been voted in various ways: by placing an" X "by the candidate's name; by placing a check mark by the candidate's name; by underlining the candidate's name, by circling the arrow adjacent to the candidate's name; and by drawing an arrow from the tip of the arrow to the candidate's name. The chancellor, along with all five of the election commissioners, concluded that of the 53 contested ballots, Wade should receive 18 votes, Williams should receive 32 votes, and three votes were invalid. Two of Wade's votes allowed were, as above noted, the ones challenged for delinquent registration. The vote total, as determined by the Special Tribunal was:

 Williams . . . . . . . . 941 Wade . . . . . . . . . . 939

 LAW

 EFFECT OF FAILURE TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS IN MARKING BALLOT

 Wade first contends that only those ballots where the shaft of the arrow was properly filled in should be counted. Years ago voters were instructed to write the name of the person he intended to vote for on a slip of paper. Code 1857, Ch. IV, 12. Later, this State changed to a printed ballot; statutes required the voter to place an" X "opposite the candidate of his choice and if any other type mark was made, this technical violation invalidated the ballot. Our earlier cases so held. Code of 1892, 3664. Carver v. State ex rel. Ruhr, 177 Miss. 54, 170 So. 643 (1936); Kelly v. State ex rel. Kierskey, 79 Miss. 168, 30 So. 49 (1901). Thereafter, the Legislature authorized more than just a simple" X "for the voter to indicate his choice. Miss. Code Ann 23-5-151 (1972). This Court then held in determining whether a ballot ...


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