Port Gibson voting today already under legal protest|[12/04/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2007


A state of confusion has prevailed since, after Reeves won the Nov. 13 Democratic primary, two-term Mayor Amelda Arnold, who lost, filed a challenge saying he did not meet residency requirements.

Reeves, who said he lives and votes in Port Gibson and clearly qualifies as a candidate, is on the ballot under an order issued Monday afternoon by Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard.

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His name had been dropped from the ballot, he said, by Mack in a Monday morning meeting the election commissioners apparently intended to be closed in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Pickard’s ruling is expected to be appealed by Arnold, who said she’s not a bad loser, but wanted the law to be followed. After running against Arnold previously, this year Reeves polled 380 votes to Arnold’s 192 votes in the primary. There are no Republican or independents seeking the $40,000 per year job, so Reeves was tacitly elected with today’s general election vote a formality. One contested race is on the ballot today. For Ward 4 alderman, Democratic nominee Marvin Ratliff faces Republican Bob Tinsley. Ratliff received 93 votes over Charles Stewart’s 43 in the Democratic primary.

Pickard’s ruling came four days after about 50 people gathered and were promptly dismissed Thursday from City Hall, where no action was taken on Arnold’s protest, filed Nov. 26, and showing Reeves had filed for 2006 homestead exemption in Illinois, the state in which he said he lived and worked before moving home to Port Gibson. The exemption, in most cases, may be applied only to a homeowner’s primary residence.

A spokesman with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office said Friday, however, the fact that Reeves had homestead exemption a year ago in another state is not enough to disqualify him as a candidate in Port Gibson.

The city’s Democratic Executive Committee is the group, according to state law, that has the authority to make a residency ruling. It did not have a quorum Thursday. A spokesman in the City Clerk’s Office said Friday that a meeting between the party and Reeves was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, but the party “refused” to meet, Mack said.

Reeves said the meeting — between him and the election commission — was rescheduled to 11 a.m., a time he believes was changed to keep the public from attending. He informed his supporters of the time change, he said, and about 40 people entered City Hall for the meeting, which was termed a “closed meeting” by commissioners.

“The people insisted. So, they finally relented and let everyone in,” Reeves said.

Mack said shortly before the meeting was originally to begin that it had been canceled. She also said the election commission was awaiting a phone call from the Attorney General’s Office to determine how to proceed and whether Reeves’ name would appear on ballots. However, Jan Schaefer, public information officer with the Office of the Attorney General, said the office had “not received any formal requests concerning this matter.”

After Mack made the move to disqualify Reeves, he and his attorney, Richard “Beau” Truly of Fayette, filed an appeal to circuit court. Pickard called a 3 p.m. meeting at Claiborne County’s Circuit Court, where Reeves and Arnold and their attorneys, joined by election commissioners, were present.

Arnold said she and her attorney, Omar Nelson of Vicksburg, were filing an appeal with the Mississippi State Court of Appeals this morning.

“I’m still saying there was fraud in (Reeves’) first certification,” Arnold said. “I don’t see how a judge cannot hear the whole story and still overturn the ruling.”

Polls are open until 7 tonight.