Meridian Star

April 16, 2013

Election officials to put Patton on ballot

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     An independent candidate for mayor whose candidacy was held up by a challenge has been given the green light by election officials.

    The Meridian Election Commission voted unanimously on Monday to add to Walter Patton to the slate of candidates running for mayor. Commissioners delayed a decision last week when they certified other independent candidates because a challenge had been filed to keep Patton off the ballot. Unlike Democratic or Republican candidates who qualify through their parties, independents must gather at least 50 signatures of voters who are registered in the city.

    Patton exceeded the number of required signatures, but some turned out to be thrown out because they were not registered. He still had enough signatures to qualify, but 15 people who had signed his election petition later came back and wanted to remove their names from his petition, saying they did not endorse him or support him.

Attorney Joel Hamilton represented Patton at a hearing at City Hall on Monday.

    "Of the 15 affidavits filed, five of them were thrown out already, so there were really only 10 of them that were considered to be valid on the petition. Of those, several of them just expressed that they supported different candidates," Hamilton said. "That doesn't mean that there's anything invalid about their signature on the petition just to put Mr. Patton on the ballot."

    Commissioners George Culpepper, Dana Kidd, Bill Harper, Catherine Jones, and Rick Rick Entrekin all voted in favor of putting Patton's name on the ballot.

    Attorney Stephen Wilson, representing himself, Melba Clark and John Flowers, who all challenged Patton's standing to run for office, said they will weigh their options regarding an appeal.

    "We challenged Mr. Patton's standing to run for office because he did not have the requisite 50 signatures of valid electors," Wilson said. "A number of these people were not registered voters and they were thrown out. We also alleged that there was misrepresentation — fraud in Mr. Patton's procurement of those other signatures."

    If an appeal goes forward, it would be filed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.