By CHRIS KAISER
SEMO News Service
DUNKLIN COUNTY -- As the election has been completed for approximately two months, and the swearing in of elects is around the corner, the matter of the the State Representative for the 150th District is still undetermined and does not seem to be coming to a close anytime soon.
According to the Dunklin Co. Prosecuting Attorney, Stephen P. Sokoloff, the problems were discovered following the election, held Nov. 6, 2012 between Tom Todd (D ) and incumbent Kent Hampton (R ) for the 150th District State Representative Seat. Prior to the election, new district lines had been drawn in the county.
Due to the redrawing of the district lines, several precincts were divided. "Part of the precinct was in the 150th (district,) part of the precinct was in the 152nd (district,)" Sokoloff said. The two divided precincts located in Dunklin County include; Campbell Rural and Cotton Hill Township Rural.
The Dunklin County Clerk, Carroll Hinesly's Office, composed a list of the voters that lived in either of the rural areas. Approximately 272 of those listed in Campbell Rural, are those that live in the 152nd District, however were on the list of those who lived in the 150th District. A much smaller number in the Cotton Hill Township were put on the list of who lived in the 150th District, but actually lived in the 152nd District. These lists were given to the polling judges.
Part of the 272 residents listed, were 63 ballots that were cast in Campbell Ward two, 63 more ballots that were cast than there were people who were properly registered residents in that ward, basicly overvotes.
According to Sokoloff, what further complicated matters, was that the citizens in the different precincts vote at the same polling stations. Campbell Rural and Campbell Ward two voted in the same location during the election.
On the day of the election, Carroll Hinesly noticed that their were more ballots than there were registered voters, this caused Hinesly to discover that the list given to the polling judges was incorrect. Following the discovery, she proceeded to send a letter to the Secretary of State's Office, to inform them that she could not certify the election results, due to the misvotes.
On behalf of Ms. Hinesly, Sokoloff filed a petition for a new election based on a statute that says that if the election authority determines that there are sufficient irregularities cast out on the outcome of the election, to request a new election. "Since the margin in the race was 116 votes, we had 270 overvotes, that certainly is a cast out," Sokoloff stated.
In a hearing, held in early December 2012 the Honorable Judge William H. Winchester found that there were mis votes sufficient to cast out the election. Judge Winchester then proceeded to to order a new election, however, this election would only take place in the two precincts of Campbell Rural and Campbell Ward two.
Following the decision made by Judge Winchester, Daren Todd, attorney for Tom Todd, filed an application with prohibition, which is a remedy that requires immediate action when one thinks the Judge has made a wrong order. The application with prohibition was filed in the Southern District where it was denied. It was then taken to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Additional irregularities were discovered by Sokoloff when he received a telephone call from an individual from the Cotton Hill Township, who had received the incorrect ballot for the 152nd District, but lived in the 150th District. It was later discovered that the individual had in actuality received the correct ballot, due to the new district line starting in his very own backyard, through his farm lot and out his driveway.
The telephone call from the Cotton Hill Township resident, lead to researching the area and discovering that at the time, at least five voters were given a 152nd District ballots, that lived in the 150th District. Based on the new information, Sokoloff filed a motion for a rehearing.
The morning of Dec. 12, 2012, a telephone conference was held between Judge Winchester, Sokoloff, and attorneys for both Kent Hampton and Tom Todd, where Judge Winchester set aside the new election that was expected to take place Dec. 18, 2012 and granted a new hearing, based on the motion made by Sokoloff. That same morning, without knowing about the newly granted hearing, the Missouri Supreme Court issued their preliminary writ for prohibition. After discovering that Judge Winchester granted a new hearing, the Missouri Supreme Court dissolved the writ.
On Dec. 17, 2012, a hearing was held based on the new information where a judgement was entered that the election be held three precincts that included; Campbell Rural, Campbell Ward two, and Cotton Hill Rural, which was set to take place Jan. 8, 2013. Daren
Todd then filed another petition with the Southern District, which was once again denied and filed with the Missouri Supreme Court again, which was granted. Russell Oliver, attorney for Kent Hampton, filed a direct appeal in the Southern District. Although the brief for the appeal has not yet been filed, the notice of the appeal claims that although there were sufficient evidence, there were more mis votes than the margin in the three precincts, that in order to prevail, Todd would have to get 80 percent of the vote to overcome the margin difference and that it was not proven that he would receive 80 percent of the votes, and therefore that would not be sufficient to cast out on the outcome. A motion was also filed by Hampton in the Missouri Supreme Court to dissolve the writ due to the direct appeal in place.
According to Sokoloff, with a judgement of a trial court, in order to be appealable, it must be final. And it does not become final for 30 days after it is entered. In any appeal that is filed prior to the expiration of 30 days is premature.
In the meantime, the Missouri Supreme Court stayed proceedings on the writ, leaving everything in place. This means that at this time, an election has not been set and everything has come to a halt, without any instructions as to when the election is expected proceed.