Saying that “some of the controversy surrounding” Hattiesburg’s special mayoral election has taken on a racial tone it finds “troubling,” the Democratic Party of Mississippi has asked the federal government to send representatives to observe the Sept. 24 election. In a letter dated Aug. 23, 2013, Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey L. Cole made the request of United States Attorney General Eric Holder. “The more eyes on the process, the better,” Cole said Wednesday. “The more attention and daylight that’s brought into the process, whether there was anything untoward that happened or might have happened or not, it’s much better to have independent observers to make their observations from the standpoint of a disinterested person.” Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, whose 37-vote victory in June over former City Councilman Dave Ware was challenged in court and eventually led to the second election, said in a statement Wednesday that he had asked Coleman to make the request.
“Elected officials receive our authority to govern from the people, and it is important for every citizen to have confidence in the voting process,” DuPree said. “I felt it was important to request the federal government to observe this election – along with the state – to ensure there are no questions about the process, nor the outcome.”
The special election was called by Judge William Coleman after a mistrial was declared in a suit brought by Ware, challenging the outcome.
During the ensuing hearing, a number of issues in the election were brought forward, including the handling and safeguarding of affidavit ballots.