Supervisors put Brewer on ballot; incumbent Corbin dies of heart attack

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 17, 2000

At right, Johnny Brewer leaves Warren County Court after a judge said Monday his name can be placed on the ballot for District 1 election commissioner. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

On Monday afternoon within hours of when the veteran commissioner who would have been his opponent died, a judge’s ruling paved the way for Johnny Brewer’s name to be added to the ballot for District 1 election commissioner.

Tuesday, Warren County supervisors officially accepted Brewer’s application to be a candidate and voted to include his name on the Nov. 7 ballot, reversing their earlier finding that his petition was not verified soon enough.

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“I think justice was served,” Brewer said following the judge’s ruling. “I’m pleased with the decision.”

Minutes before the judge’s ruling and unrelated to the court action, however, District 1Election Commissioner Lena Corbin died of heart attack at ParkView Regional Medical Center.

“It’s unfortunate and sad what happened to Mrs. Corbin,” Brewer said.

She had been a member of the commission for at least 20 years and, had Brewer been exclused, would have been unopposed for a new term. As it is, Brewer will be unopposed.

Adams County Circuit Court Judge Forrest Johnson of Natchez ruled that supervisors should consider Brewer’s qualifying papers as having been filed on time, the question that a month ago led to his name being excluded from the ballot.

To fill Corbin’s spot on the commission, supervisors will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday to appoint a commissioner to the District 1 slot for the remainder of Corbin’s term. The term ends Dec. 31.

Johnson said in his ruling that supervisors were right to disqualify Brewer’s application to be a candidate, but that the candidate had done everything he should have to be on the ballot.

“Essentially, both of you are right,” Johnson said.

Supervisors had voted on Sept. 18 to exclude Brewer, a Republican, from the race, saying he had not qualified in a timely manner. The petition had been filed with the Circuit Clerk’s Office at 4:30 p.m. on the last day to qualify, but Mississippi Election Laws require election commission candidates to file with the clerk of the board of supervisors, the chancery clerk.

Other candidates in the election commission race also filed paperwork in the Circuit Clerk’s Office, where their petitions containing 50 signatures from registered voters in that district were certified. The petitions were then passed to the Chancery Clerk’s Office, date-stamped and later approved by the board of supervisors.

The difference between Brewer’s application and the other eight candidates’ paperwork was timing. Brewer was the last election commission candidate to file, waiting until 30 minutes before the close of business on the last day to qualify, Sept. 8.

“At that particular point, he had done all that he could have,” said Brewer’s attorney, Wren Way.

The petition was not certified by the Circuit Clerk’s Office until the following Monday and passed to the Chancery Clerk’s Office the next day. When supervisors were asked to approve the petitions for election commission candidates, Brewer’s application showed Sept. 12 as the day it had been received by the Chancery Clerk’s Office.

“Faced with what they were faced with, it’s hard to see how they could have reached any other decision,” Johnson said of the supervisors.

He added that the problem with Brewer’s application was a common one throughout the state.

In many counties, including Warren County, election commission candidates have historically filed with the Circuit Clerk’s Office, where their petitions are certified and then passed on to the Chancery Clerk’s Office. In Simpson County last week, a judge made a similar ruling placing four election commission candidates on the ballot after they had also filed in Circuit Clerk’s Office and were disqualified by county supervisors.

The ruling also addressed absentee ballots that have been being accepted in the Circuit Clerk’s Office for about two weeks. The ballots were printed showing the name of Corbin, a Democrat, as the only candidate in the District 1 race.

In his order, Johnson instructed the Circuit Clerk’s Office to notify absentee voters of the change. Those voters will be furnished with new ballots.

About 50 absentee ballots have already been cast in District 1, Circuit Clerk Larry Ashley said.

Whether Corbin’s name will appear on the general election ballot has not been determined. That decision will come from the election commission later today.

Election commissioners are responsible for certifying election results in each county and candidates in all county elections except election commission races. In election commission races, the board of supervisors is charged with certifying all candidates.