• 54°

Attorney general’s opinion sought in election dispute

[03/19/03]A state attorney general’s opinion is being sought in the case of a Warren County supervisor candidate affected by this year’s redistricting, county officials said.

Kenneth Downs, 38, who filed as an independent candidate for District 1 supervisor, no longer lives in that district, said Gordon Carr, the county’s District 5 election commissioner.

The address Downs listed on his qualifying statement, 1243 Boy Scout Road, was in District 1 before the county’s redistricting plan was approved, but it is now in District 2, Carr said. That statement was submitted on Feb. 28, the day before the deadline to file such papers, Board of Supervisors attorney Randy Sherard said.

The new plan was one of several proposed after the 2000 Census. It was approved by the Board of Supervisors in February 2002. Population shifts require the redrawing of district lines every 10 years.

Such plans here also require approval at the federal level, and the county received notice of such approval from the U.S. Justice Department in a letter dated Feb. 6.

Carr said Downs’ qualifying petition listed more than the required number of signatures, all of which are residents of the new District 1.

“There’s a question about him doing it,” Carr said of Downs’ filing. “He’s thinking about moving into District 1. He has two acres of land somewhere up there.”

He added that the election commission had asked Sherard to pose the question in a letter to Attorney General Mike Moore’s office.

Sherard’s office said Tuesday that he was writing the letter.

In 2002, the county approved plans for redistricting both the three- and five-district maps. For nearly a year while redistricting plans were awaiting federal approval, they were available for public viewing.

During this year’s qualifying period for election candidates, which ended March 1, they were in the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

“Downs qualified after the plan was approved,” Sherard said.

“Those were plans that were subject to approval. Either (Downs) was confused or did not look at the plans,” Sherard said.

Candidates living in the potentially redistricted area were advised while the plan was pending to qualify in both the district in which they then lived and in what would be their new district with Justice approval, Sherard said.

Election commissioners were continuing to review the stated qualifications of the other 24 people who filed as independent candidates for county offices in the Nov. 4 general election, but no other problems had been discovered as of Monday, Carr said.

Candidates who filed to run as Democrats or Republicans were to be qualified by those parties’ respective county committees, District 2 election commissioner Retha Summers said.

Those parties have set primary elections for Aug. 5. For county offices, 17 filed to qualify as Democrats and nine as Republicans.

Nineteen other candidates, for area legislative or multi-county district offices, also filed qualifying papers with the Democratic or Republican state committees or the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.