Countdown to Certification
The qualifying deadline for the 2017 municipal election is quickly approaching. Everyone currently serving on the board are seeking re-election with the exception of Alderman Quincy Rogers who's looking to unseat Kent Crider as Mayor of Lumberton. The other day, I shared a post encouraging potential candidates to make sure they obtain signatures from the residents of their wards in order to ensure they're certified to participate in the 2017 Municipal Election. In previous years, all candidates were allowed to submit signature pages signed by registered voters. However, during the Special Election of 2016, the rules were somehow changed. When Kent Crider's seat was vacated after he was declared the winner of the Mayoral Election, there were two candidates that submitted paperwork to seek the seat as Alderman of Ward 1. Well, one candidate was disqualified because all of the signatures on their signature page were not residents of Ward 1. The Lumberton Election Commissioner decided that the signatures did not meet the requirements, probably at the behest of the city clerk that was actually pulling the stings during the election process, and they declared Buckley the victor because he was then the only candidate to have the signatures required. The decision was allowed to stand because the other candidate did not dispute the new interpretation of the rules.
The candidate petition clearly states the following:
"Any candidate seeking to be an independent candidate for municipal office must file a Statement of Interest and Petition signed by not less than the following number of qualified electors: (a) for an office elected by the qualified electors of a municipality at large or by a ward or district, having a population of one thousand (1,000) or more, not less than fifty (50)qualified electors, or (b) for an office elected by the qualified electors of a municipality at large, or by a ward or district, having a population less than one thousand (1,000), not less than fifteen (15) qualified electors, with the Municipal Clerk's Office no later than 5:00 p.m. on the same date by which candidates for nominations in the municipal primary elections are required to pay the fee provided for in Section 23-15-309."
Based on the paperwork each candidate receives, the heading paragraph clearly states that the petition must contain signatures from qualified electors. According to the paperwork, there's nothing indicating that the signatures must be obtained from the residents of a particular ward or district. However, during the last special election, a candidate was disqualified because the signatures on their candidate petition were not exclusively from residents of Ward 1. Perhaps there's a different set of rules that are used for special elections as opposed to regular elections or the Lumberton Election Commissioner and City Clerk were making up rules to achieve the desired outcome? If you are seeking to have your name included on the ballot for the 2017 election, make sure your candidate petition is signed by registered voters. As we learned from the last two special elections, they will find loopholes to help the candidates they favor. So much for integrity in the electoral process. We've learned that ballots can be torn and discarded in the restroom by the people monitoring the election, a mayor candidate can have votes discarded by claiming the voters have felony records, and the alderwoman at large will provide her own set of alternative facts and claim that the same voters that were accused of being felons do not live within the city limits of Lumberton; all in an effort for them to retain control. If you've noticed, the other municipalities have certified their candidates as they turn in their paperwork but of course the City of Lumberton is not as efficient. For some reason, our Election Commission want to hold all the paperwork and certify the candidates at the same time. According the Mississippi Secretary of State's website, the deadline to qualify is 5:00 p.m. March 3, 2017 for party primary and independent candidates for municipal office.