ABERDEEN, MISS. (WCBI) – A special judge and a local election commission will decide whether a special election is needed in a contested alderman’s race in Aberdeen.
In June, a runoff for the Ward 1 Alderman seat pitted Nicholas Holliday against Robert Devaull, both Democrats. Holliday was declared the winner and took office in July. However, Devaull contested the results, claiming there were many issues and inconsistencies with the ballot counts, problems at the polling precinct, and accusations that some absentee ballots were not notarized properly.
Special Judge Jeff Weill Senior heard arguments from both sides in Monroe County Circuit Court.
Lydia Quarles represents Robert Devaull and says her client is asking the judge to rule that a new election is needed for the Ward 1 seat. Among the accusations, a delay in counting affidavit ballots, counting ballots with improper voting marks, and inconsistencies with absentee ballots.
“The absentee ballots, a lot were not filled out properly, were not witnessed properly, not endorsed properly, not put back in the envelope, that sort of thing, then some of the ones that were approved as ok, they were approved by ballot workers, but come with very same irregularities, were rejected,” Quarles said.
Holliday’s attorney, Walter Zinn Junior, says any ballots that didn’t meet the standards under Mississippi law were thrown out.
“The evidence will show that the challenger would have never won and after legal votes have been counted and recounted and boxes been reopened, he still lost and I feel that the day citizens spoke, election officials spoke and the law speaks as well that my client won and still should remain the sitting councilman,” Zinn said.
Devaull also contends that there were irregularities at the polling precinct. In court papers, Devaull accuses Holliday’s supporters of violating state law by campaigning within 150 feet of a polling place and harassing Devaull’s supporters. Devaull claims those harassing voters were members of a so-called “A-Team” a group organized by Mayor Maurice Howard.
Zinn says the allegations are without merit and are also part of an attempt to discredit Mayor Howard.
“I’ve learned they treat the mayor like a boogeyman, if anything happens in Aberdeen, if it rains too much, it’s the mayor’s fault, unfortunately, because of issues they use him as a scapegoat,” Zinn said.
“Robert is not a patsy, so he is not going to vote one way or the other way, but I think people supporting him, he will not necessarily vote the way the mayor says to vote, and I think that’s why they’re interested,” Quarles said.
Judge Weill is expected to rule on the case in March or April, then the election commission will agree or disagree with his decision before a ruling is issued. Either side could appeal.
Attorneys for both sides have been asked to submit additional papers summarizing their positions by February 8th.