The election for Ward 1 alderman in Canton is going back to the voters after a Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that illegal voting and voter intimidation occurred in the May Democratic primary. After a two-day hearing, Judge Forrest Johnson Jr. of Natchez said the will of the voters could not be determined through the May 7 ballot box. He ordered the election results for Ward 1 alderman be tossed and a new election called while allowing Rodriquez Brown, who won the June 4 election, to remain in office. “Whether one agrees or disagrees, the evidence I heard is disturbing to say the least,” said Johnson, who was appointed to hear the case by the Mississippi Supreme Court. “For poll workers to endure what I’ve heard is not right.”
As required by law, the judge will ask Gov. Phil Bryant to call for a special election. “This does call for a new election. He (Brown) will be required to vacate the office upon the qualification of the winner. If Mr. Brown wins, he will remain in office.”
The five members of the Madison County Election Commission, who were requested to sit in on the hearing at Johnson’s request as technical advisers on elections, agreed with the judge’s ruling when he polled them.
Johnson ruled that Kimberly Readus, a member of the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee, used “profanity and bullying tactics to create a breach of the peace, intimidate voters and poll workers to disrupt the election process.”
After listening to testimony from poll workers and poll watchers in the Ward 1 precinct, Johnson also found that Readus wrongly allowed voters, who should have voted by a paper affidavit ballot — which could have been challenged later — to use the electronic voting machines. In one instance, he said, “contrary to law” Readus also tore up an affidavit ballot.