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Ready: Small group of Democrats ensured incumbent sheriff's victory

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 1, 2003
DEKALB The attorney for unsuccessful Kemper County sheriff's candidate Johnny Harpole said Tuesday that a small group of Democratic Executive Committee members denied his client a victory.
Bill Ready Jr. also said the committee didn't fully consider issues he and Harpole raised last month contesting the Aug. 26 Democratic runoff in which incumbent Sheriff Samuel Tisdale won by 159 votes.
But Earl Thomas, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, dismissed Ready's charges. Thomas said the committee fully considered Harpole's petition contesting the runoff.
A six-member panel of the committee listened to evidence during a Sept. 22 hearing on the petition. Three days later, 22 executive committee members disqualified absentee ballots cast in the runoff a move that increased Tisdale's margin of victory from 40 to 159 votes.
Planned lawsuit
Ready said he plans to file suit in Circuit Court no later than next week challenging the sheriff's runoff and Tisdale's victory.
He said the court could halt the November election in which Tisdale meets independents Rusty Calvert, Ronnie Rankin and Glen Williams and allow time to examine Harpole's allegations of voting irregularities.
Harpole charged that unqualified convicted felons voted and names of dead people appeared on voter precinct sign-in sheets. He also questioned the validity of absentee ballots, saying some were not notarized.
But the Democratic Executive Committee dismissed the charges during a closed meeting Thursday.
Thomas said that allowing the public in the Kemper County courtroom, where the meeting was held, would have made it difficult to distinguish committee members from spectators.
Court options
Once Ready files suit in Circuit Court, he said, the Circuit Clerk is required to call the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court to give him notice that a suit has been filed.
The judge has numerous options including throwing out the entire election, letting the results stand or ordering new elections in certain precincts.
On Monday, Adams County Circuit Court Judge Forrest Al'' Johnson ordered a new round of elections for two disputed Clinton precincts in the state House District 56 Republican primary.
That primary is between first-term state Rep. Jep Barbour of Yazoo City and challenger Philip Gunn of Clinton. Johnson ordered the primary elections to take place before Oct. 21.
Gunn asked for a new election after he lost by 17 votes. Barbour said the will of voters couldn't be determined because some Clinton residents who are supposed to be in the district were excluded from it.
Barbour last month was certified the winner of the race by the Republican party. Gunn said the issue was not about him winning the election, but making sure that all the voters are heard.