2004 Regular Session
To: Apportionment and Elections
By: Representative Gunn, Ellington, Fillingane, Hamilton (6th), Mayhall, Staples
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-921, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE SHALL HAVE EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION TO HEAR THE CONTEST OF A PRIMARY ELECTION; TO AMEND SECTIONS 23-15-955 AND 23-15-957, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE MISSISSIPPI STATE LEGISLATURE SHALL NOT HEAR CONTESTS FOR PRIMARY ELECTIONS; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-961, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT NO PETITION TO CONTEST THE QUALIFICATIONS OF ANOTHER PERSON AS A CANDIDATE FOR NOMINATION IN A POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY ELECTION SHALL BE FILED WITH THE MISSISSIPPI STATE LEGISLATURE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 23-15-921, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-921. Except as otherwise provided by Section 23-15-961, the county executive committee shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear the contest of a primary election. A person desiring to contest the election of another person returned as the nominee of the party to any county or county district office, or as the nominee of a legislative district composed of one (1) county or less, may, within twenty (20) days after the primary election, file a petition only with the secretary, or any member of the county executive committee in the county in which the election was held, setting forth the grounds upon which the primary election is contested; and it shall be the duty of the executive committee to assemble by call of the chairman or three (3) members of the committee, notice of which contest shall be served five (5) days before said meeting, and after notifying all parties concerned proceed to investigate the grounds upon which the election is contested and, by majority vote of members present, declare the true results of such primary.
SECTION 2. Section 23-15-955, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-955. Except as otherwise provided by Section 23-15-961, the person contesting the seat of any member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall comply with the provisions of this section. Section 38, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, provides that each house of the Mississippi State Legislature shall judge the qualifications, return and election of its membership. Pursuant to that authority, the House of Representatives shall have exclusive jurisdiction over an election contest regarding the seat of any member of the House of Representatives, but shall not have jurisdiction over a primary election contest, the Senate shall have exclusive jurisdiction over an election contest regarding the seat of any member of the Senate, and the county executive committee shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear the contest of a primary election. An election contest regarding the seat of a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate shall be filed with the Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate, as the case may be, within thirty (30) days after a regular general election or ten (10) days after a special election to fill a vacancy. The legislative resolution of the election contest shall be conducted in accordance with procedures and precedents established by the House of Representatives or the Senate, as the case may be. Such procedures and precedents may be found in the Journals of the House of Representatives and of the State Senate and/or in the published Rules of the House of Representatives and of the State Senate.
SECTION 3. Section 23-15-957, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-957. Each house of the Legislature, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of the Senate, or any committee appointed to investigate the facts concerning the election, other than a primary election, or qualifications of any member or persons claimed to be such, shall have power to issue subpoenas and compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of such documents or papers as may be required. In addition, the clerk or the secretary, as the case may be, shall have the authority to enforce any subpoena issued by him or her and to enforce compliance with the time limitations set forth in Section 23-15-955 or in any internal procedure or precedent of the respective house of the State Legislature.
SECTION 4. Section 23-15-961, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-961. (1) Any person desiring to contest the qualifications of another person as a candidate for nomination in a political party primary election shall file a petition specifically setting forth the grounds of the challenge within ten (10) days after the qualifying deadline for the office in question. Such petition shall be filed with the executive committee with whom the candidate in question qualified. No petition to contest the qualifications of another person as a candidate for nomination in a political party primary election shall be filed with the Mississippi State Legislature.
(2) Within ten (10) days of receipt of the petition described above, the appropriate executive committee shall meet and rule upon the petition. At least two (2) days before the hearing to consider the petition, the appropriate executive committee shall give notice to both the petitioner and the contested candidate of the time and place of the hearing on the petition. Each party shall be given an opportunity to be heard at such meeting and present evidence in support of his position.
(3) If the appropriate executive committee fails to rule upon the petition within the time required above, such inaction shall be interpreted as a denial of the request for relief contained in the petition.
(4) Any party aggrieved by the action or inaction of the appropriate executive committee may file a petition for judicial review to the circuit court of the county in which the executive committee whose decision is being reviewed sits. Such petition must be filed no later than fifteen (15) days after the date the petition was originally filed with the appropriate executive committee. Such person filing for judicial review shall give a cost bond in the sum of Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00) with two (2) or more sufficient sureties conditioned to pay all costs in case his petition be dismissed, and an additional bond may be required, by the court, if necessary, at any subsequent stage of the proceedings.
(5) Upon the filing of the petition and bond, the circuit clerk shall immediately, by registered letter or by telegraph or by telephone, or personally, notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or in his absence, or disability, some other judge of the Supreme Court, who shall forthwith designate and notify from the list provided in Section 23-15-951 a circuit judge or chancellor of a district other than that which embraces the district, subdistrict, county or any of the counties, involved in the contest or complaint, to proceed to the county in which the contest or complaint has been filed to hear and determine the contest or complaint. It shall be the official duty of the circuit judge or chancellor to proceed to the discharge of the designated duty at the earliest possible date to be fixed by the judge or chancellor and of which the contestant and contestee shall have reasonable notice. The contestant and contestee are to be served in a reasonable manner as the judge or chancellor may direct, in response to which notice the contestee shall promptly file his answer, and also his cross-complaint if he has a cross-complaint. The hearing before the circuit court shall be de novo. The matter shall be tried to the circuit judge, without a jury. After hearing the evidence, the circuit judge shall determine whether the candidate whose qualifications have been challenged is legally qualified to have his name placed upon the ballot in question. The circuit judge may, upon disqualification of any such candidate, order that such candidate shall bear the court costs of the proceedings.
(6) Within three (3) days after judgment is rendered by the circuit court, the contestant or contestee, or both, may file an appeal in the Supreme Court upon giving a cost bond in the sum of Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00), together with a bill of exceptions which shall state the point or points of law at issue with a sufficient synopsis of the facts to fully disclose the bearing and relevancy of such points of law. The bill of exceptions shall be signed by the trial judge, or in case of his absence, refusal or disability, by two (2) disinterested attorneys, as is provided by law in other cases of bills of exception. The filing of such appeals shall automatically suspend the decision of the circuit court and the appropriate executive committee is entitled to proceed based upon their decision unless and until the Supreme Court, in its discretion, stays further proceedings in the matter. The appeal shall be immediately docketed in the Supreme Court and referred to the court en banc upon briefs without oral argument unless the court shall call for oral argument, and shall be decided at the earliest possible date, as a preference case over all others. The Supreme Court shall have the authority to grant such relief as is appropriate under the circumstances.
(7) The procedure set forth above shall be the sole and only manner in which the qualifications of a candidate seeking public office as a party nominee may be challenged prior to the time of his nomination or election. After a party nominee has been elected to public office, the election may be challenged as otherwise provided by law. After a party nominee assumes an elective office, his qualifications to hold that office may be contested as otherwise provided by law.
SECTION 5. 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 6. 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.