Lawsuit filed by sheriff's candidate
asks for delay in Kemper election
By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 11, 2003
Johnny Harpole, who lost an Aug. 26 Democratic runoff in the Kemper County sheriff's race, has filed a lawsuit in Kemper County Circuit Court challenging the election.
Harpole's complaint was filed Thursday on behalf of himself, and the voters of Kemper County, against the Kemper County Democratic Executive Committee and Sheriff Samuel Tisdale.
Harpole is asking that the Nov. 4 general election be delayed until the court can investigate alleged irregularities in the election. The lawsuit comes after the Kemper County Democratic Executive Committee considered the same complaints in a hearing last month.
Harpole claims that: convicted felons unqualified to vote cast ballots; sheriff's deputies took inmates to the polls; deceased people's names appear on voter sign-in lists; people voted in precincts in which they did not live; ballots rejected by the voting machine were left uncounted; and absentee ballots were improperly accepted.
After the hearing, the Democratic Executive Committee threw out all of the absentee ballots cast in the runoff and certified Tisdale the winner by 159 votes. The original runoff count put Tisdale ahead by 40 votes.
The lawsuit criticizes Earl Thomas, chairman of the Kemper County Democratic Executive Committee, saying that he set a hearing to listen to charges of voting irregularities "arbitrarily, capriciously and without consulting … the petitioner Johnny Harpole."
It also claims that Thomas refused to sign subpoenas for Harpole's witnesses unless he was told beforehand who the plaintiff's witnesses would be.
The suit also charges that state law requires the plaintiff have a hearing before the Kemper County Democratic Executive Committee rather than the a six-member hearing panel chosen to hear Harpole's charges. That panel then presented its findings to the full committee.
Meridian attorney Bill Ready Jr. represents Harpole.
Ready said Kemper County Circuit Clerk Roma Allen is required to call the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court to give him notice that a suit has been filed. He said the justice will appoint a circuit or chancery judge, from outside Kemper County, to hear testimony and review all the evidence.