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Wesley v. Washington County Democratic Executive Committee

Supreme Court of Mississippi

November 30, 2017

TROY WESLEY
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY DEMOCRATIC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND CARL McGEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/28/2016

         WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. L. BRELAND HILBURN JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS: WILLIE GRIFFIN SANDRA JARIBU HILL JAMIE FERGUSON JACKS BENNIE LE NARD RICHARD

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JAMIE FERGUSON JACKS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: SANDRA JARIBU HILLWILLIE GRIFFIN

          BEFORE WALLER, C.J., KITCHENS, P.J., AND BEAM, J.

          BEAM, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Appellant Troy Wesley lost the Democratic primary election for Washington County District 3 Supervisor on August 4, 2015. He subsequently petitioned the circuit court to request a new election, alleging that numerous irregularities had invalidated the former one. After a hearing on the matter, the Washington County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to defendants Carl McGee and the Washington County Democratic Executive Committee. Aggrieved, Wesley now appeals to this Court. In his appeal, Wesley cites no discrepancy in the original vote totals and instead focuses his arguments on procedural problems, including an alleged lack of ballot-box security. While the failure to maintain ballot-box security is a serious issue worthy of reprimand, we find that Wesley's arguments are insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact and that summary judgment was properly entered in favor of the defendants.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On August 4, 2015, the Democratic primary for Washington County District 3 Supervisor resulted in candidate Carl McGee receiving 448 votes and Troy Wesley receiving 378. The vote totals for the two candidates differed by 70 votes, but Wesley challenged the election-first by filing a petition with the Washington County Democratic Executive Committee (WCDEC), then by filing a complaint in Washington County Circuit Court against Carl McGee and the WCDEC. Before the trial court, Wesley alleged that numerous violations of election law had taken place and asked for a new election.

         ¶3. Prior to trial, both sides requested summary judgment. On October 21, 2015, McGee filed such a motion; then the WCDEC filed a motion for dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment. Wesley then filed for summary judgment and offered his own affidavit and various photos of ballot boxes in support of his allegations in the case. The trial court eventually held a hearing on February 23, 2016, and concluded that "[t]here has not been demonstrated to the Court that there [were] enough illegal votes cast . . . to change the result of the election." The court continued, explaining that "[i]t has not been established that so many votes are disqualified that the will of the voters is not established by this vote count." Accordingly, the court issued an Order of Dismissal, in which it dismissed the case "with prejudice and all cost taxed to Plaintiff." Though noting that all of the parties admitted election irregularities had occurred, the court denied Wesley's motion for summary judgment and granted the motions of McGee and the WCDEC. Aggrieved, Wesley appealed to this Court.

         ¶4. In his appeal, Wesley continues to allege that numerous election irregularities occurred and that those irregularities require a new election for Washington County District 3 Supervisor. Narrowing his arguments to focus on ballot-box security, Wesley alleges the following:

1) The election result ballot boxes were not properly sealed as prescribed by law;
2) Election machine memory cards and results from machines were not in any closed box whatsoever, but in an open cardboard box in the circuit clerk's office;
3) The circuit clerk did not control and secure the ballot boxes as she was not in control of the boxes for weeks following the election;
4) Ballot boxes were left in the hallway of the courthouse, their tops open and at least one member[] of the WCDEC removed items from these boxes, all prior to Wesley's examination of the boxes;
5) Because of the WCDEC's failure to properly tally affidavit and absentee votes, the circuit clerk herself was forced to tally these votes;
6) Washington County Election Commission (William Gist) also handled and canvassed ...

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