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Goof Forces Runoff In Mississippi’s Supreme Court Race

March 9, 1988

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Buoyed by a heavy vote in Claiborne County, Ed Pittman was within reach of winning the Democratic nomination in a Mississippi Supreme Court race.

Problem was, elections officials had forgotten that Claiborne County wasn’t part of the district any longer.

″I would have loved to win the first time, but as a matter of fact when you have three worthy opponents you don’t anticipate winning the first day,″ the former attorney general said Wednesday.

He will face attorney John Swartzfager in the March 29 runoff.

Swartzfager said he was shocked by the snafu, and blamed it partly on Pittman.

Pittman was the state attorney general when the redistricting plan was approved in December, Swartzfager said, ″and he should have notified the secretary of state and the Democratic Party.″

Final but unofficial returns without Claiborne County showed Pittman with 49 percent of the vote in the Supreme Court’s Southern District and Swartzfager with 21 percent.

Including Claiborne County, where Pittman won by 1,554 to 107, his unofficial total was about 50 percent. A runoff is required if a candidate receives less than 50 percent.

″The bottom line is they may have voted in the Southern District but they are not in that district,″ said John Emfinger of the Attorney General’s office. ″The next step will be up to the party.″

Emfinger said the Legislature had moved the county as part of a redistricting plan last year.

Brian Martin, executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party, said the mistake would have no impact on the Central District, where Claiborne County belongs and where two incumbent justices had no opposition Tuesday.

″We received the sample ballot from the (state) party and our Democratic Executive Committee had the ballot made up exactly as it was sent to us,″ said Sammie Good, the Claiborne County circuit clerk. ″We are very disappointed our votes will not count and I’m sure Ed Pittman is disappointed.″

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