SEC. 23-15-963. Exclusive procedures for contesting qualifications of candidate for general election; exceptions.
(1) Any person desiring to contest the qualifications of another person who has qualified pursuant to the provisions of Section 23-15-359, Mississippi Code of 1972, as a candidate for any office elected at a general election, shall file a petition specifically setting forth the grounds of the challenge not later than thirty-one (31) days after the date of the first primary election set forth in Section 23-15-191, Mississippi Code of 1972. Such petition shall be filed with the same body with whom the candidate in question qualified pursuant to Section 23-15-359, Mississippi Code of 1972.
(2) Within ten (10) days of receipt of the petition described above, the appropriate election officials shall meet and rule upon the petition. At least two (2) days before the hearing to consider the petition, the appropriate election officials 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 election officials fail 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 election officials may file a petition for judicial review to the circuit court of the county in which the election officials 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 election officials. 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) The circuit court with whom such a petition for judicial review has been filed shall at the earliest possible date set the matter for hearing. Notice shall be given the interested parties of the time set for hearing by the circuit clerk. 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 election officials are 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 who qualified pursuant to the provisions of Section 23-15-359, Mississippi Code of 1972, may be challenged prior to the time of his election. After any such person has been elected to public office, the election may be challenged as otherwise provided by law. After any person assumes an elective office, his qualifications to hold that office may be contested as otherwise provided by law.
SOURCES: Derived from 1972 Code Sec. 23-3-63 [Codes, 1942, Sec. 3191; Laws, 1935, ch. 19; Repealed by Laws, 1986, ch. 495, Sec. 333]; En, Laws, 1988, ch. 577, Sec. 2; 1990, ch. 307, Sec. 2, eff from and after May 4, 1990 (the date the United States Attorney General interposed no objection to the amendment of this section).