Voters fill out their ballots at Jackson Fire Station 7 on Election Day in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

An unsuccessful candidate for the state Legislature wants to file an election challenge over the Hinds County ballot shortage issues, but she’s worried she won’t have the necessary money to fund the litigation.

Sharon Moman, the Democratic nominee for House District 56, lost her bid for the legislative seat that covers portions of Hinds and Madison counties to a Republican candidate.

She told Mississippi Today that she heard from countless Hinds County voters who tried to vote for her on Election Day, but they simply decided to leave their polling precinct after poll workers told them they had no ballots. 

“The ripple effect with a lack of ballots just continued all day long,” Moman said. 

Moman received roughly 2,564 votes or 33% of the total vote. Her Republican opponent, Clay Mansell, received 5,043 votes, or roughly 66% of the total vote. Mansell declined to comment on a potential election challenge. 

READ MORE: Hinds County ballot shortages cause legal mess on Election Day

The House district is outgoing House Speaker Philip Gunn’s seat and contains a Black voting age population of 27%, according to the Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting.  

In Mississippi, Black voters are more likely to support Democratic candidates, while white voters are more likely to vote for Republican candidates, making it extremely difficult for Moman to win the House district. 

But the Jackson suburban area contains a high concentration of college-educated voters, who, nationally, have been more likely to vote for Democratic candidates in recent years. 

“I’m disappointed,” Moman said. “I want to file a challenge because that 33% number I got was just disappointing to see. People are going to incorrectly think it’s not a winnable district for a Democrat or for a woman.”

Numerous precincts in Hinds County ran out of ballots on Election Day, which left some voters waiting in line for hours and caused others to give up and go home. Several voters submitted sworn affidavits to state courts expressing frustration over the fiasco.

The ballot shortages spurred legal action from multiple organizations before the normal poll closing time at 7 p.m., and a chancery court judge ordered all Hinds County precincts to stay open until 8 p.m. to allow more people to vote.

State law allows candidates to file an election challenge over the general election by Monday, November 27.

In an election challenge, the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court appoints a special judge to provide over the litigation. The special judge would make an initial determination if a candidate should receive any type of relief, but the decision would be appealable to the state Supreme Court.

Though the Hinds County ballot shortage situation is unique, it’s unclear how much say, if any, the state courts would have over Moman’s scenario.

The Mississippi Constitution gives the state House of Representatives exclusive jurisdiction over general election contests with House races. If Moman wants to file such a challenge with the 122-member chamber, state law requires her to do so with the clerk of the House no later than 30 days after the general election.

A House committee would likely be formed to investigate the election challenge, and they could conduct a hearing to receive arguments from both Moman and her Republican opponent on whether they should grant any type of relief.

In either scenario, a candidate would likely have to pay an attorney to spend resources filing briefs, researching case law, paying court fees and securing potential witnesses to testify — funds Moman says she does not have. 

If Moman does not file such a challenge with the clerk by Thursday, December 7, then Mansell will be the new state lawmaker for the district. 

READ MOREJudge extends Hinds County precinct hours after numerous ballot problems

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.