Congressional candidate challenges last week’s election results after losing District 2 seat
Republican Brian Flowers contests election loss to incumbent Democrat Bennie Thompson
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Congressional candidate who lost last week’s election claims irregularities and delays in Hinds County could have led to the outcome, and now he plans to challenge the results.
Unofficial results show U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democrat incumbent representing District 2, won handily against Republican challenger Brian Flowers by more than 30,000 votes.
However, Flowers said the fact that one-fifth of Hinds County’s voting precincts weren’t counted until the day after the election means those results can’t be trusted.
“To our knowledge, five of those thumb drives went to [places] other than the courthouse, went to other people’s homes, that’s breaking the chain of custody. And then they all of a sudden want to use those thumb drives, and we found the ballots,” Flowers said. “The chain of custody has already been broken.”
He did not provide any proof that those flash drives had ever been transported to anybody’s home.
When WLBT asked Flowers specifically what precincts had been compromised or tainted, he could not say.
“We have asked that question several times from various people, Secretary of State, people like that, and we have not gotten an answer one way or the other,” Flowers said.
Flowers wouldn’t answer whether he believes the election was stolen, either.
“I’m not going to go into that, as far as that goes, because we don’t have any proof of that yet,” Flowers said.
The candidate could be heard telling protesters not to say the word “fraud” when discussing their concerns as reporters arrived.
Hinds County’s election commissioners denied Flowers’ biggest claim that flash drives went to poll workers’ homes, saying a handful of them remained in one precinct -- a church -- but the facility remained locked.
Flowers’ supporters gathered Monday to protest the results outside and get more information inside from those commissioners.
“People do close their facilities after the election is over with. That’s why we couldn’t probably have retrieved those thumb drives until the next day. But the next day, everything was accounted for,” said District 3 Commissioner Jermal Clark.
Clark said they also had backup systems to get those results, which would maintain the election’s integrity if any flash drive ended up being lost.
One Flowers supporter had a sign asking District 2 Election Commissioner Toni Johnson to resign.
“I‘m honestly wanting to know why Toni Johnson was still allowed to be on the commission after being indicted on charges earlier this year,” Flowers said. “That is a big question that needs to be answered.”
State law, however, answers that question clearly, as we told Flowers on Monday.
While a sitting elected official can be removed if they’re found guilty of most felonies, they cannot be removed simply for being indicted for a crime.
For example, a grand jury indicted Rankin County Tax Assessor John Sullivan on a rape charge in August and he continues to serve in his elected role, paid by taxpayers.
Upon hearing that, Flowers backpedaled a bit.
“You’re obviously innocent until proven guilty. I mean, that’s, that’s nationwide. But here’s the thing is when you’re talking about choosing and not choosing, but counting the different votes that the people are, are putting in, maybe a temporary suspension should have been put in place,” Flowers said.
That also has no basis in state law.
As 3 On Your Side previously found while investigating Sullivan earlier this year, elected officials can only be removed by statute or a lengthy petition process. Elected officials like fellow election commissioners or county supervisors have no authority over them.
Johnson’s indictments stem from another 3 On Your Side investigation into hundreds of thousands of dollars in election grant money funneled to people for work the State Auditor says they did not perform.
Johnson awaits a trial date on embezzlement, fraud and bribery charges for her alleged role in the scheme.
The District 2 election commissioner drew the ire of candidates and fellow commissioners last week when she decided to wait until the day after election day to count her seven precincts.
However, Secretary of State Michael Watson said to his knowledge, state law does not require counting to be done by commissioners on election night as long as the results are completed within the ten-day deadline for results to be certified.
“We’re wanting an audit, so we can get the figures and see what it is. If the figures state that I lost after the audits done, great. If not, then we need to dig in a little bit further,” Flowers said.
Watson issued a statement on social media Monday morning indicating his staff planned on investigating the allegations in Hinds County.
“As questions mount regarding the Hinds County election results, rest assured our office is digging in to make sure we have all of the facts before responding,” Watson said. “While we’ve not uncovered, at this point, any evidence suggesting the results were compromised, questions have surfaced regarding proper election protocol.”
Thompson told WLBT that he remained confident in the results and will wait to see what happens before responding further.
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