Supreme Court election between Griffis, Westbrooks remains unresolved

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Kenny Griffis and Latrice Westbrooks are running for a Mississippi Supreme Court seat on Nov. 3.

The Central District Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice Kenny Griffis and challenger Latrice Westbrooks is Mississippi’s only districtwide or statewide contest that has yet to be resolved from Tuesday’s elections.

The Associated Press, which is the media outlet in Mississippi that normally accumulates statewide vote totals and calls elections, has not made a final call in the Central District Supreme Court race.

Griffis has 52.2% of the vote and leads by a margin of almost 14,172 votes, according to numbers from the Associated Press. But according to election officials, about 18,000 absentee ballots were still being counted in Democratic stronghold Hinds County on Wednesday afternoon, and about 17,000 absentee ballots were still being counted in Republican bulwark Rankin County.

While judicial candidates run in non-partisan elections, Westbrooks enjoys strong support among Democratic voters as Griffis does with Republicans. Other ballots may also remain to be counted in the Delta portion of the Central District.

But it is not clear whether those outstanding ballots were cast by Republican or Democrats. Nationwide, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats have been much more apt to vote early.

Griffis, the former chief judge on the Court of Appeals, was appointed to the Supreme Court in February 2019 by then-Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Chief Justice Bill Waller, who retired. Griffis is a Meridian native who now lives in Madison County.

Westbrooks is in her first term on the Court of Appeals representing District 2, which consists of Jackson and a large slice of west Mississippi. She is vying to be the first African American woman to serve on the state’s highest court and only the fifth Black member. The nine-member court has never had two African American members on it at the same time in modern history. The Court currently consists of one woman — Dawn Beam of the Southern District — and one Black member — Leslie King of the Central District — and seven white men.

In one other contested Supreme Court race, incumbent Justice Josiah Coleman won reelection to his Northern District seat on Tuesday, defeating DeSoto County Chancery Judge Percy Lynchard. Coleman, who lives in Choctaw County, is finishing his first eight-year term on the Supreme Court.

Statewide, votes continue to come in. There was speculation that this year’s presidential election would set a record for turnout in the state. The most votes ever cast in Mississippi occurred in 2008, when 1,289,939 voted in the election between Barack Obama and John McCain. The current count is a little more than 1 million votes cast  Tuesday, but that number will increase as additional ballots are counted, but whether it will reach record turnout remains to be seen.