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MS Supreme Court denies GOP request to invalidate order that extended Hinds County voting hours

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MS Supreme Court denies GOP request to invalidate order that extended Hinds County voting hours

Feb 22, 2024 | 6:15 pm ET
By Taylor Vance
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MS Supreme Court denies GOP request to invalidate order that extended Hinds County voting hours
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Photo courtesy of Mississippi Today

A three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court on Thursday denied the Mississippi Republican Party’s request to dissolve a Hinds County chancellor’s emergency order that extended polling precinct hours on the night of Mississippi’s statewide elections. 

Presiding Justice Leslie King and Justices Josiah Coleman and David Ishee, in a two-page ruling, rejected the Republican Party’s petition because they were a non-party to the original Hinds County case, and it would have allowed them to “obtain review of a moot decision.”    

Spencer Ritchie, the attorney who represented the state GOP’s request to the state Supreme Court, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

On Nov. 7, several Hinds County precincts ran out of ballots or did not have proper ballots, and voters reportedly waited in long lines or left without casting ballots. The state Democratic Party filed an emergency order against the Hinds County circuit clerk in chancery court to keep Hinds County polls open an extra hour that night. Chancellor Dewayne Thomas granted the order.

But in a separate case filed that night by Mississippi Votes, a Jackson nonprofit organization, in Hinds County Circuit Court, the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed a special judge, former Supreme Court Judge Jess Dickinson, to hear the matter. 

Dickinson issued an order that simply repeated existing state law: that people who were in line when the polls closed at 7 p.m. could vote if they remained in line.

The extension by the chancellor did not change the outcome of any statewide race. The state Republican Party, in its appeal, conceded the chancery order was largely moot, but asked the high court to issue a ruling to prevent future Election Day confusion because the issues are “of great public interest.”

The GOP said conflicting court actions on election night caused confusion and ran the risk of “sowing public doubt about the reliability of election results.” It also argued the chancellor lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter, but the Supreme Court did not address those legal issues raised by the GOP.