SEC. 23-15-961. Exclusive procedures for contesting qualifications of candidate for primary election; exceptions.
(1) Any person desiring to contest the qualifications of another person as a candidate for nomination in a political party primary election shall file a petition specifically setting forth the grounds of the challenge within ten (10) days after the qualifying deadline for the office in question. Such petition shall be filed with the executive committee with whom the candidate in question qualified.
(2) Within ten (10) days of receipt of the petition described above, the appropriate executive committee shall meet and rule upon the petition. At least two (2) days before the hearing to consider the petition, the appropriate executive committee shall give notice to both the petitioner and the contested candidate of the time and place of the hearing on the petition. Each party shall be given an opportunity to be heard at such meeting and present evidence in support of his position.
(3) If the appropriate executive committee fails to rule upon the petition within the time required above, such inaction shall be interpreted as a denial of the request for relief contained in the petition.
(4) Any party aggrieved by the action or inaction of the appropriate executive committee may file a petition for judicial review to the circuit court of the county in which the executive committee whose decision is being reviewed sits. Such petition must be filed no later than fifteen (15) days after the date the petition was originally filed with the appropriate executive committee. Such person filing for judicial review shall give a cost bond in the sum of Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00) with two (2) or more sufficient sureties conditioned to pay all costs in case his petition be dismissed, and an additional bond may be required, by the court, if necessary, at any subsequent stage of the proceedings.
(5) Upon the filing of the petition and bond, the circuit clerk shall immediately, by registered letter or by telegraph or by telephone, or personally, notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or in his absence, or disability, some other judge of the Supreme Court, who shall forthwith designate and notify from the list provided in Section 23-15-951 a circuit judge or chancellor of a district other than that which embraces the district, subdistrict, county or any of the counties, involved in the contest or complaint, to proceed to the county in which the contest or complaint has been filed to hear and determine the contest or complaint. It shall be the official duty of the circuit judge or chancellor to proceed to the discharge of the designated duty at the earliest possible date to be fixed by the judge or chancellor and of which the contestant and contestee shall have reasonable notice. The contestant and contestee are to be served in a reasonable manner as the judge or chancellor may direct, in response to which notice the contestee shall promptly file his answer, and also his cross-complaint if he has a cross-complaint. The hearing before the circuit court shall be de novo. The matter shall be tried to the circuit judge, without a jury. After hearing the evidence, the circuit judge shall determine whether the candidate whose qualifications have been challenged is legally qualified to have his name placed upon the ballot in question. The circuit judge may, upon disqualification of any such candidate, order that such candidate shall bear the court costs of the proceedings.
(6) Within three (3) days after judgment is rendered by the circuit court, the contestant or contestee, or both, may file an appeal in the Supreme Court upon giving a cost bond in the sum of Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00), together with a bill of exceptions which shall state the point or points of law at issue with a sufficient synopsis of the facts to fully disclose the bearing and relevancy of such points of law. The bill of exceptions shall be signed by the trial judge, or in case of his absence, refusal or disability, by two (2) disinterested attorneys, as is provided by law in other cases of bills of exception. The filing of such appeals shall automatically suspend the decision of the circuit court and the appropriate executive committee is entitled to proceed based upon their decision unless and until the Supreme Court, in its discretion, stays further proceedings in the matter. The appeal shall be immediately docketed in the Supreme Court and referred to the court en banc upon briefs without oral argument unless the court shall call for oral argument, and shall be decided at the earliest possible date, as a preference case over all others. The Supreme Court shall have the authority to grant such relief as is appropriate under the circumstances.
(7) The procedure set forth above shall be the sole and only manner in which the qualifications of a candidate seeking public office as a party nominee may be challenged prior to the time of his nomination or election. After a party nominee has been elected to public office, the election may be challenged as otherwise provided by law. After a party nominee assumes an elective office, his qualifications to hold that office may be contested as otherwise provided by law.
SOURCES: Derived from 1942 Code Sec. 3151 [Codes, Hemingway's 1917, Sec. 6431; 1930, Sec. 5904; Laws, 1916, ch. 161; Repealed by Laws, 1970, ch. 506, Sec. 33 and 1986, ch. 495, Sec. 346]; En, Laws, 1988, ch. 577, Sec. 1; 1990, ch. 307, Sec. 1, eff from and after May 4, 1990 (the date the United States Attorney General interposed no objection to the amendment of this section). Amended by Laws 1999, Ch. 301, Sec. 14, eff. from and after effectuation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and extended.