The law says the state’s boards of supervisors must pay for all county elections. But that goes out the window, Hinds County District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes says, if the election costs exceed what he believes the county can afford. He and two other board members voted to ask the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to rule on whether Hinds County has to pay, with Hinds County Election Commission members warning him that ballots by law must be printed out by Friday. Stokes’ train of thought prompted an immediate threat of a lawsuit by Hinds County Republican Executive Committee chair Pete Perry. Stokes got into a shouting match today with Perry, Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee head Jackie Norris, and the Hinds County Election Commission when he said the county doesn’t have the money to pay for primary elections in September to fill supervisor seats in Districts 2 and 4. It’s estimated that costs to run the primary will be about $67,000, and that’s after both Democratic and Republican parties sat at the table together and honed costs down from about $200,000.
The costs can be paid out of the coming year’s budget, not the current budget year that ends Sept.30, because the costs won’t be submitted for payment until after Oct. 1, explained District 4 Election Commissioner Connie Cochran. The board is in the midst of crafting the new budget.
“The board is obligated to pay by statute,” Cochran said, citing Mississippi Code 23-15-301 as she and other commissioners let the board know their estimate of costs to conduct the primary, which likely will require a runoff at an additional cost.
“The bottom line, sir, is by statute, you have to find the money to pay for this,” Cochran told Stokes.