1997 Regular Session
To: Apportionment and Elections
By: Representative Denny
House Bill 9
AN ACT TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI VOTER PROTECTION ACT; TO AUTHORIZE THE APPOINTMENT OF EXAMINERS TO ENFORCE VOTING GUARANTEES; TO PROVIDE FOR THE SUSPENSION OF THE USE OF TESTS OR DEVICES WHICH DENY OR ABRIDGE THE RIGHT TO VOTE; TO PROVIDE FOR THE RETENTION OF JURISDICTION BY THE COURT IF IT FINDS THAT THE FOURTEENTH OR FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT HAS BEEN VIOLATED; TO SPECIFY THE DUTIES OF OBSERVERS AT AN ELECTION; TO PROVIDE FOR THE FILING OF A PETITION IN CIRCUIT COURT TO CHALLENGE VOTING IRREGULARITIES; TO REQUIRE THE POSTING OF A BOND WITH THE PETITION; TO AUTHORIZE THE APPOINTMENT OF A SPECIAL JUDGE AND PROVIDE FOR HIS POWERS AND DUTIES; TO PROVIDE THAT THIS PETITION PROCESS SHALL BE SUPPLEMENTAL TO OTHER CONTESTING PROCEDURES PROVIDED BY LAW; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi Voter Protection Act."
SECTION 2. Whenever the Attorney General or an aggrieved person institutes a proceeding under any statute to enforce the voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment, the court shall authorize the appointment of examiners by the Secretary of State to serve for the period of time and for the political subdivisions as the court determines to be necessary to enforce the voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment. The examiners shall be appointed as part of an interlocutory order if the court determines that the appointment of the examiners is necessary to enforce the voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendments or as part of any final judgment rendered due to the court finding that violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment, which justify equitable relief, have occurred. The court need not authorize the appointment of examiners if any incidents of denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of race or color, or incidents in contravention of the voting guarantees provided by federal and state law have been few in number and have been promptly and effectively corrected by state or local action, the continuing effect of the incidents has been eliminated, and there is no reasonable probability of their recurrence in the future.
SECTION 3. If, in a proceeding instituted by the Attorney General or an aggrieved person under any statute to enforce the voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment, the court finds that a test or device has been used for the purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right of any citizen of the State of Mississippi to vote on account of race or color, or has been used in contravention of the voting guarantees provided by federal and state law, it shall suspend the use of tests and devices for a period of time as the court deems necessary.
SECTION 4. If, in any proceeding instituted by the Attorney General or an aggrieved person under any statute to enforce the voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment, the court finds that violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable relief have occurred, the court, in addition to the relief it may grant, shall retain jurisdiction for the period of time as it may deem appropriate and during that period no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting different from that in force or effect at the time the proceeding was commenced shall be enforced until the court finds that the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or will not be in contravention of the voting guarantees provided by federal and state law.
SECTION 5. Whenever an examiner is serving as provided in this act, the Secretary of State may assign, at the request of the Attorney General, one or more persons, who may be officers of the state, to enter and attend at any place that is used for holding a state election for the purpose of observing whether persons, who are entitled to vote, are being permitted to vote, and to enter and attend at any place that is used for tabulating the votes cast at any state election for the purpose of observing whether votes cast by persons entitled to vote are being properly tabulated. The persons assigned shall report to an examiner appointed for the political subdivision of the state, to the Attorney General, and, if the appointment of examiners has been authorized pursuant to this act, to the court.
SECTION 6. (1) A candidate, district attorney or twenty (20) or more electors from the county or counties in which the violations of election laws have occurred may file a petition in circuit court stating under oath:
(a) That illegal voting acts including fraudulent or illegal use of absentee voting applications, fraudulent voter registrations, illegal vote buying, illegal use or voting of absentee ballots, conduct which will likely cause or has caused the denial of civil rights of the electors by engaging in a course of conduct which will compromise the secrecy of the ballot, illegal tampering with or failure to follow the statutory provisions which apply to the use of voting machines, supplies and other devices and apparatus relating to the tabulating, counting and handling thereof have occurred; and
(b) That the illegal voting acts are to an extent that if allowed to continue without judicial intervention, they are likely to subvert the election process so that if judicial intervention is not procured the evidence of these illegal acts, including the acts of persons as well as documentary evidence, will be lost or destroyed, and the will of the electorate in the election will be subverted.
(2) After filing the petition in the circuit court of any county in which the election is being held with a bond for the security of costs of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), the petition shall be presented to any justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court who shall appoint a chancery or circuit judge to perform the functions of the special judge referred to in House Bill No. ____, 1997 Regular Session. The special judge, if practical, shall not be a resident of the jurisdiction where the election is being held.
(3) The special judge, upon appointment, shall sign an order causing a summons to issue returnable to a time, place and date certain summoning the proper executive committee or election commission to show cause why the relief requested by the petitioner should not be granted.
(4) After a hearing on the petition, the special judge shall be authorized to appoint investigators or poll watchers to do and perform acts specifically authorized by the judge. In addition, the special judge shall have all of the powers of a chancellor or circuit judge to effectuate the purposes of this act which are to protect the election process from illegal acts, safeguard and protect election records and protect the electors right to vote. The special judge shall have the specific power to grant injunctions, issue writs of mandamus and writs of prohibition. Any person authorized to act as an investigator or poll watcher by the court shall be given a certified copy of the order which shall be authority for him to act. The investigator or poll watcher shall have the power to observe the election process within the polling place and have such other powers as granted by the special judge, but he shall not be authorized to impinge on the elector's right to vote a secret ballot.
(5) Nothing in this act shall be construed to grant to the special judge the power to usurp the power, authority and duties of those who are authorized by law to conduct elections as prescribed by law.
(6) The provisions of this section shall be supplemental to any existing law or procedure for contesting any voting procedure or irregularity.
SECTION 7. The Attorney General of the State of Mississippi shall submit this act, immediately upon approval by the Governor, or upon approval by the Legislature subsequent to a veto, to the Attorney General of the United States or to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in accordance with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and extended.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after the date it is effectuated under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and extended.