2016 Regular Session
To: Spec Cmte for Elec Cont of Senate Seats
By: Senator(s) Burton
Senate Resolution 7
A RESOLUTION TO ADOPT A REMEDY TO THE ELECTION CONTEST FOR MISSISSIPPI SENATE DISTRICT 37 OF THE MISSISSIPPI STATE SENATE.
WHEREAS, on December 4, 2015, the Secretary of State certified the election of Bob M. Dearing to Senate District 37 for the 2016-2019 term of office; and
WHEREAS, on December 2, 2015, Melanie Sojourner filed with the Secretary of the Senate a Petition to Contest the Election for Mississippi State Senate District 37 and an Answer to said Petition was filed by Bob M. Dearing on December 11, 2015; and
WHEREAS, Section 38, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, provides that each house of the Legislature “…shall judge of the qualifications, return and election of its own members”; and
WHEREAS, Section 23-15-955 provides that the legislative resolution of election contests involving Senate and House of Representatives seats “…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”; and
WHEREAS, on January 5, 2016, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 2 which established a special committee and charged it with the duty of investigating and proposing to the Senate a remedy to the election contest for District 37 in the form of a resolution; and
WHEREAS, on January 5, 2016, pursuant to Senate Resolution No. 2, the Lieutenant Governor appointed Senators Burton (Chairman), Parks, Frazier, Doty and Fillingane to serve on the Special Committee to Investigate the Election Contest for Senate District 37 of the Mississippi Senate; and
WHEREAS, on January 6, 2016, the Special Committee met, organized and scheduled hearings on the election contest for Senate District 37 to begin on January 13, 2016; and
WHEREAS, the Special Committee conducted public hearings on the election contest from Wednesday, January 13, 2016, through Friday, January 15, 2016, and began its deliberations immediately thereafter; and
WHEREAS, the parties to the election contest were ably represented by counsel who presented facts and legal arguments to the Special Committee; and
WHEREAS, the Special Committee assumed its responsibility as fact finders and not as members of partisan parties, and the Special Committee heard testimony and conducted its deliberations accordingly; and
WHEREAS, the Special Committee adopted the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” for weighing the testimony presented to it. Under this standard, the Petitioner Melanie Sojourner had the burden of presenting evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered by the Respondent Senator-elect Bob Dearing; and
WHEREAS, prior to hearing testimony, the Special Committee heard four (4) Motions to Quash Subpoenas and Subpoenas Duces Tecum which were ruled to be moot due to subsequent complaints. After the Special Committee ruled on these motions, numerous witnesses were subpoenaed to testify at the hearing and these witnesses were examined by counsel and the members of the Special Committee. Numerous objections to the presentation of certain evidence and to the form of questions were made by both counsel for Respondent and Petitioner which were either sustained or overruled by the chairman in order to hear all relevant evidence in an effort to be totally fair to each party, with the exception of obvious hearsay which was not allowed; and
WHEREAS, the Special Committee to Investigate the Election Contest for Senate District 37 of the Mississippi Senate has concluding its hearing into the election contest and has filed a report with the Secretary of the Senate as required by Senate Resolution No. 2, 2016 Regular Session, that contains the relevant facts of the contest, Mississippi law that is involved in the election contest, the findings of the committee and the recommendations of the committee; and
WHEREAS, the Special Committee has endeavored to render a fair and impartial decision in this matter. The committee recognizes the seriousness of the allegations in the petition of Melanie Sojourner and also recognizes the importance of the franchise and the duty not to disenfranchise voters without sufficient cause. The Mississippi Supreme Court has stated that “[t]he people who are electors should not be deprived of the benefit of their votes, because those whose duty it was to hold the election, were ignorant, incompetent, or wilfully failed in some particulars to do their duty. Nor should the successful candidate lose his office because of the misconduct of these officials, if he is free from complicity with them and has not gained the office by reason of such misbehavior.” The committee concluded in its report by majority vote, that (a) the Petitioner did not present a preponderance of evidence that the Absentee Voting Practices in Adams County would have changed the outcome of the election of Senator-elect Bob Dearing, and that (b) the Petitioner did not present a preponderance of evidence that Poll Managers and Election Officials in Bude Precinct in Franklin County provided unlawful assistance to voters which would have changed the outcome of the election of Senator-elect Bob Dearing:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That because it should not overturn the will of the electorate in the Senate District 37 General Election, the Senate finds that the Honorable Bob M. Dearing is duly qualified and shall be permanently seated as a member of the Senate.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That Senator Dearing shall receive the regular compensation and expenses of a member of the Senate and be entitled to all rights and privileges of the office of Senator, including, but not limited to, seniority, retroactive to the beginning of the 2016 Regular Session.