District 37 constituent speaks out against Sojourner

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Congratulations to Senator Bob Dearing (D) on his win over Melanie Sojourner (R). I was at the Capitol and watched all four days of the proceedings investigating allegations of voter fraud and/or irregularities leveled by Sojourner’s election challenge.

I’d like to share what I learned as well as my impressions from the hearings, especially with Sojourner blaming her loss of both the election and the challenge on political corruption, both at the polls and in the Senate.

The special committee (four Republicans and one Democrat) went out of their way to let Sojourner present her case. Her witnesses testified, ad nauseam, in order to make certain they said what they wanted to say.

First of all, it’s interesting that the only votes Sojourner wanted discarded were from Franklin and Adams counties. She made no mention of any irregularities in the counties she won. It’s also interesting that no complaints were made until after the final affidavit and absentee ballots were counted and showed that Dearing had won.

It was then that Republican poll watcher, Anita Leonard (wife of the chairman of the Franklin County GOP), sent her complaints to the Secretary of State’s office, who responded that not only was there nothing to her charges, but Leonard had invaded several voters’ privacy by naming them in her complaint.

There were questions about how affidavit and absentee ballots were executed and stored. Mississippi case law allows deviations from statutory procedure in the absence of allegations or proof of fraud.

The special committee did not believe she proved her case. Even if she had proved a particular vote was cast as a result of a violation of an election statute, she must also prove it was cast fraudulently or with intentional wrongdoing by. Not one single voter came forward to say his or her vote was changed or influenced. Not one.

In other words, Sojourner wanted hundreds of votes thrown out because of what someone might have done. She wanted a government she criticizes to disregard the will of people who had done nothing more than simply vote.

Sojourner claims she is one of the few honest politicians in Mississippi.

She claims she’s outraged at unnecessary spending. She’s looking out for us, the taxpayers. This challenge cost the taxpayers of Mississippi untold thousands in court costs, transportation and other legal fees. It cost Bob Dearing, personally, approximately $25,000. The Senate was unable to do the state’s work until this was finished — 10 days lost. And she says she did it knowing she wouldn’t win.

In the meantime, five ladies in Bude have been criminally charged and must defend themselves in a court of law. One wonders how we’ll ever convince people to work the polls with the likes of Anita Leonard and Melanie Sojourner hovering nearby to catch the tiniest infraction. God only knows what it will cost us if she runs and loses another election.

Margaret Marlow Stutzman is a Natchez resident