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Eaton vs Tullos could be headed to House for resolution
House GOP supermajority hinges on HD 79

by Frank Corder
The race for House District 79 tightened over the last week, resulting in what could be a tie between longtime Democrat state Rep. Bo Eaton and Republican challenger Mark Tullos.

It was initially reported that Tullos had won by 6 votes but ballots were found and added into the total, evening the tally.

Neither candidate has yet to concede or file a challenge, however according to Mississippi House rules a challenge could be headed to its members to weigh the outcome.

Below are the House rules governing such challenges.

ELECTION CONTEST

104B. The procedure for handling the contest of the election, other than a primary election, of a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives shall be as follows:

(1) Anyone desiring to contest the election, other than a primary election, of a member returned as elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives shall file with the Clerk of the House of Representatives, within thirty (30) days after a regular general election or ten (10) days after a special election to fill a vacancy, a sworn petition stating particularly the grounds upon which the election is contested. A copy of the petition shall be served on the member whose election is being contested. Any allegations concerning the election, or any grounds for the contest contained in the petition, shall be stated and averred in the same manner in which circumstances constituting fraud are required to be stated with particularity when pleading special matters under the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.

(2) Upon the timely filing of the petition, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall appoint a special committee to resolve the election contest. Any special committee appointed by the Speaker under this subsection (2) shall be composed of one (1) member of the House of Representatives from each congressional district as constituted on January 1, 1996. In making the committee appointments, the Speaker shall give consideration to the seniority, abilities and geographic location of the members. Within fifteen (15) days after the Speaker's appointment of the special committee, the committee shall meet to organize and review the petition.

(3) (a) Either party to such an election contest may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the particular grounds stated in the petition or any response thereto, and he may use any method of discovery that is authorized under the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.

(b) Either party shall have the right of full examination of ballot boxes in accordance with Section 23-15-911, Mississippi Code of 1972.

(c) All forms of discovery shall be completed within twenty (20) days before the convening of a regular session on the Tuesday after the first Monday in January, except that in the case of a special election to fill a vacancy, discovery shall be completed within thirty (30) days after the special election.

(d) The special committee shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the determination of whether the filing of the petition and discovery related thereto have been timely made. If the filing of the petition or the discovery related thereto is not made timely, the election contest shall be void, and the contest and any rights related thereto shall expire by operation of law.

(4) On the first day of the regular session next occurring after the election being contested, the person who was certified by the appropriate election officials as the duly elected member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from the district in question shall be administered the oath of office by the Secretary of State as required by the Constitution, along with all other members present, and he shall not be requested to stand aside if he has been so certified. In the case of a special election contest, the oath shall be administered by the Speaker as in the case of administering the oath after any special election in which no contest has been filed. The seating and swearing in of a member who has been certified by the appropriate election officials before the special committee has concluded its deliberations shall be conditional and not permanent. The conditional seating and swearing in of the member shall vest in the member all the rights, privileges, and emoluments of the office, but without prejudice to the contest filed by the petitioner.

(5) The special committee appointed by the Speaker shall meet on the first day of the regular session next occurring after the election being contested, except that in the case of a special election to fill a vacancy, the special committee shall meet within five (5) days of the completion of discovery. The work of the special committee shall be a matter of the highest priority for the House, and any conflicts in scheduling meetings of the committee shall be resolved in favor of expediting the committee's work. The special committee shall have the power to investigate all facts concerning the election or qualifications of any member or petitioner, but shall not place itself in the position of investigating matters not alleged in the petition or any response thereto. It also shall have the power to issue subpoenas and compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of such documents or papers as may be required. The special committee shall have the authority to enforce any subpoena issued by the committee and to enforce compliance with the time limitations set forth in this rule, with the assistance of the State Attorney General or his designee.

(6) After the committee concludes its deliberations, it shall report a resolution recommending one (1) of the following courses of action to the House: (a) to seat permanently the House member who was certified and sworn in under subsection (4) of this rule, failure of which shall vacate the seat for the House district in question held by that person; (b) to seat permanently the petitioner in the election contest, passage of which will vacate the seat for that House district and the petitioner shall be sworn in for that seat; or (c) to declare the office of representative for that House district as vacant. The House shall consider the recommendation of the committee, and it shall adopt one (1) of the courses of action specified in this subsection (6), which must be adopted by a majority vote of House members present and voting.

(7) For purposes of this rule, "day" means a calendar day and includes any legal holiday.

(8) Section 55, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, which requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members present to expel a seated member, shall not apply to any votes taken with regard to an election contest of a member of the House of Representatives.

(9) If the House determines that the person conditionally sworn in under subsection (4) of this rule is not qualified as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, any vote cast in the interim shall stand and any compensation and expenses paid shall be retained by that person. If the petitioner prevails on the merits of his contest, he shall receive the regular compensation and expenses of a member of the House, retroactive to the beginning of the session, or in the case of a special election, retroactive to the date upon which the House member conditionally sworn in was seated.

(10) Under the inherent authority of the House to create procedures and rules for the governing of its internal affairs, if any provision of this rule conflicts with any provision of Sections 23-15-955 and 23-15-957, Mississippi Code of 1972, the provisions of this rule shall prevail.


Posted November 13, 2015 - 1:29 pm

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