Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, while conceding ambiguities in the law, says he believes the special U.S. Senate election between Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Democrat Ronnie Musgrove should be placed high on the November general election ballot.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Tuesday afternoon his office is still studying where the Senate election should be placed on the ballot and probably would not have an answer until after he returns from the Republican National Convention, which ends Sept. 4.

“This is not a casual thing,” Hosemann said. “We are working on it, and we want to make sure we get it right.”

Hosemann, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and Hood, who make up the Mississippi Election Commission, will meet Sept. 9 to decide whether the special Senate election should go high on the ballot or at the bottom behind school board races, election commission races and other local contests.

Tim Phillips, Musgrove’s campaign manager, says he believes the law is clear that national contests, meaning president and then Senate races, should be at the top of the ballot, followed by other contests.

Plus, Phillips questioned why anyone would want to hide at the bottom of the ballot “what is the most important election in the state this year.”

Data indicate that there is normally a substantial number of people who vote in contests at the top of the ballot, but do not mark a preference in the down ticket races.

Ryan Annison, a spokesman for Wicker, downplayed the importance of ballot placement in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“It seems like a matter for the secretary of state and the Elections Commission,” Annison told the AP. “I am surprised that in the midst of everything going on, that’s Ronnie Musgrove’s biggest concern.”

Hood said the law does specify that national elections should be at the top of the ballot, followed by state elections. That particular law does not specify either special elections or regular elections. Hood said the law does specify that special elections, such as the Musgrove-Wicker contest, should be clearly marked.

In 2002, a special election for a Court of Appeals post was placed with other Court of Appeals contests, but was marked as a special election.

Hood said he believes it would be easier for him to defend in court the decision to place the special Senate election high on the ballot, with the other Senate election, instead of at the bottom of the ballot.

NE MS Daily Journal