Karl Banks
Karl Banks
Former Madison County District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks is considering appealing a surprise ruling Tuesday by Special Circuit Court Judge Forrest Johnson dismissing his lingering election contest that was set to go to trial this week. 

Banks has vehemently contested his two-vote loss to David Bishop from November 2015. 

A jury trial in the ongoing election contest was set to begin Tuesday, but Johnson instead held a motions hearing without a jury present. During the roughly two-hour hearing, Johnson ultimately granted a motion for summary judgment by Bishop, dismissing the contest in its entirety. 

“Right now we are considering appeal, just because there are some issues of law that should be dealt with,” Banks said. “Of course, I wish the judge had ruled in my favor in terms of summary judgment. At the same time, this has been a long time. You get to a point where I’m satisfied that I fought for what I know was right and that’s the way I’ve always been.”

He added, “All I want is what’s best for Madison County going forward.”

Banks maintains he won the election and that 31 ballots were counted, but not included in the final vote tally. Had they been included, Banks said he would have been declared the winner. 

Bishop maintains that all votes were counted and included in the tally, though he was prepared to question some ballots that were cast in favor of Banks during the trial. 

In his order granting summary judgment, Johnson said the nature of the affidavit ballots in question was troubling. 

“The problem in this case is that those ballots were found mysteriously re-stuffed into the affidavit ballot envelopes,” he wrote. “Affidavits from election officials provide no knowledge of how this happened. This is contrary to and wholly departs from proper election procedures. This is extremely troubling to the Court because it calls into question the integrity and authentication of the ballots re-stuffed into the affidavit envelopes and whether those particular ballots were included in the certified election totals.”

He added, “At a minimum, the ballots were mishandled and established election procedures not followed by the Commission.”

Johnson goes on further in his order to say Banks “may have won the election in question as he contends, but given the obvious mishandling of the…affidavit ballots found mysteriously re-stuffed into affidavit envelopes and authentication issues resulting therefrom, his election contest cannot be successfully proven.”

Bishop said in a statement to the Journal he was thankful Johnson granted his petition for summary judgment. 

“As many are aware, the case has lasted almost three years and caused great strain to me and my family,” the statement reads in part. “During that time, most of you have continued to have faith in me and have supported me during this difficult period. I am grateful to you and my family for that support. I pledge to do everything possible to be the best supervisor I can be for the people of District 4 and for Madison County for the remainder of my term of office. This lawsuit, which has now come to a successful conclusion, has made me doubly aware of what an honor it is for me to serve you.”

The election contest was nearly three years old, featured four special judges, and already included appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court. 

Henry Lackey, who died in August, was initially appointed in the case. Banks attempted to have Lackey recuse himself from the case, which Lackey fought. The matter reached the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the court sided with Lackey, who months later recused himself. 

Lackey was replaced with Judge Richard McKenzie of Hattiesburg. McKenzie recused himself from the case in early August, citing an upcoming surgery coinciding with the trial date. 

Stephen B. Simpson, the 2011 Republican candidate for Mississippi Attorney General, recused himself less than a week after being appointed. 

Both Banks and Bishop have indicated they plan to run for the District 4 supervisor position next year.