Although his name will be on the general election ballot Tuesday, any votes cast for Roger Browning as Union County Superintendent of Education will not count.

The Supreme Court of Mississippi Thursday ruled that Browning is ineligible to be a candidate because he is not a resident of the county school district.

Browning had been qualified to run as a Republican candidate for the office but as a result of the actual voting on the day of the party primary learned that he was a resident of the New Albany Municipal School District, not the county school district.

After the primary, the Union County Election Commission disqualified Browning as a candidate based on his place of residence, and also relied on a previous lawsuit and federal court ruling against the county that stated no resident of the city school district could run for or even vote in the election for county school superintendent.

Browning appealed that disqualification to circuit court in Union County and Judge John Gregory ruled that Browning's name should be restored to the ballot. His decision was based on state law that said in at least some cases the resident of a city school district could, in fact, run for county superintendent, even if the resident still could not vote in that race.

Browning had also cited an attorney general's opinion supporting his position.

As a result, incumbent county school superintendent and Democratic nominee Ken Basil then appealed Gregory's decision to the state Supreme Court, which has had it under deliberation since Tuesday last week. The decision was posted on the court's website Thursday afternoon.

Although there has not been time to read the court decision fully, it appears to say the laws cited by Browning were deemed irrelevant to the case and the attorney general erred in his opinion that was used. In light of that, the court fell back on the basic general requirement to be a candidate: to be a qualified elector in the county or district the office serves.

That Browning is a resident of the New Albany School District was not disputed.

The court also ruled that due to the time factor with the election coming Tuesday, no rehearing will be permitted.

It is too late to make changes to the Nov. 3 ballot and a number of absentee ballots have already been cast. It will be up to the circuit clerk's office to notify voters of the Supreme Court decision somehow.

More information about the ruling will be available in the next edition of the Gazette.

 

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