Jackson mayor sues to stay in race

The lawsuit argues that the ruling should be nullified because Melton is a Jackson resident.

Point number one on the suit states: “(Melton) is a bona fide adult resident citizen of the city of Jackson.”

The lawsuit also states that the committee did not follow proper procedure when voting Tuesday, since Melton was not notified that his qualifications would be challenged.

“The same candidate that they approved four years ago they are now not approving on the assertion that he doesn’t live here,” said John Reeves, Melton’s attorney. “It’s not based in logic.”

According to the lawsuit, Melton is registered to vote in Jackson, owns a home in Jackson, and has his energy, cable and telephone accounts in Jackson. Melton also pays property taxes in Mississippi, the lawsuit says.

Melton, however, does not file for homestead exemption in Jackson. The exemption is filed as part of property taxes and gives homeowners a tax break.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that homestead exemption is a strong precedent for determining a candidate’s residency but is not conclusive.

Claude McInnis, the chairman of the committee, declined to say Tuesday night whether he thought the committee’s decision would be overturned.

Despite the ruling, the Hinds County Election Commission decided today to order absentee ballots that include Melton’s name. Commission Chairwoman Connie Cochran said Melton’s name will be crossed out if he is not reinstated.

Cochran said the commission had to make a decision today because the ballots are due in the Jackson city clerk’s office Monday. She said that deadline may be missed, but the ballots will be ready next week.

“In order for us to get them in there in a timely fashion, we cannot wait,” she said. “We have to go ahead and have them printed.”

Clarion Ledger
3/18/9