Jones v. Dixon, 5-1297

CourtSupreme Court of Arkansas
Citation227 Ark. 955,302 S.W.2d 529
Docket NumberNo. 5-1297,5-1297
PartiesW. J. JONES, R. E. Barton and John A. Jones, Appellants, v. Erith DIXON, Contestee, and Fred Kizzia, Jr., Ernie Dunlap and Raymond Apollas, Election Commissioners of Pike County, Arkansas, Appellees.
Decision Date03 June 1957

Q. Byrum Hurst and C. A. Stanfield, Hot Springs, for appellants.

Lindell Hile and Alfred Featherston, Murfreesboro, for appellees.

ROBINSON, Justice.

This suit was filed in the county court to contest an election on the question of building a county hospital under authority of Amendment No. 17 to the Constitution, as amended by Amendment No. 25. The principal issue is whether the county court has exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the election contest.

The election was held on December 22, 1956, and on the 26th day of December the county court entered an order declaring that a majority of the electors had voted for construction of the hospital. On January 10, less than 20 days later, this action was filed. The complaint alleges that the election was invalid, and assigns various reasons therefor. The contestees, appellees here, on the 26th day of January, 1957, filed a demurrer to the complaint. On February 2, the court sustained the demurrer on the ground that the county court did not have jurisdiction to try the election contest. Contestants, appellants here, appealed to the circuit court; on February 9, that court sustained a demurrer on the ground that the appeal was not taken within 30 days of the entering of the order by the county court finding the result of the election.

Amendment No. 17 to the Constitution, as amended by Amendment No. 25, authorizes the holding of county elections to determine whether a county hospital shall be constructed and authorizes the levy of a tax to defray the cost and expenses thereof. Section 4 of Amendment No. 17 provides: 'It is hereby made the duty of the usual Election Officers to prepare the ballots and to hold such election in manner and form as is now or hereafter may be provided by law, and to certify the returns thereof to the County Court. If a majority voting in such election shall vote for such improvement, then the County Court shall make and enter of record an order showing the total vote for and the total vote against such.' Amendment No. 17 was adopted at the General Election in 1928. Act No. 294 of the General Assembly for the year 1929, Ark.Stats. § 13-1213 et seq., was adopted as an enabling act for Amendment No. 17. The last sentence in Section 4 of Act 294 provides: 'Any elector and any property owner of the county may appeal from the finding of the County Court as to the result of the election within thirty (30) days thereafter; and if no appeal is taken within that time, such finding shall be conclusive.' Ark.Stats. § 13-1216.

Amendment No. 25 was adopted at the General Election in 1938. It provides that it shall be self-executing, and amends Amendment No. 17 by authorizing an election on the question of the construction of a county hospital, as well as a court house and county jail as authorized by Amendment No. 17. In Hughes v. Jackson, 213 Ark. 243, 210 S.W.2d 312, 313, this court said: 'Act 294 of 1929 facilitates the purposes intended to be served by Amendments 17 and 25. Although this statute was enacted before Amendment 17 was amended, our decisions are to the effect that when substance of Amendment 25 was brought into Amendment 17, the latter (prospectively) would be treated as having been enlarged, hence Act 294 is germane where its terms do not conflict with the basic law.'

It is the contention of the contestees, appellees here, that Act 294, limiting the time of appeal from the order of the county court finding the result of the election, is controlling; and, since the contestants did not appeal from such findings within the 30 day period, they have lost their right to contest the election; and this was the holding of the circuit court.

The finding of the county court as to the number that voted for the submitted proposal and the number that voted against it is one thing, and an election contest is something entirely different. An analogous situation was presented in Parsons v. Mason, 223 Ark. 281, 265 S.W.2d 526, 527. Act No. 403 of 1951 deals with school elections. Section 1 of the Act provides: '* * * Within ten days after the election the county court shall canvass the returns and declare the result of the election by an order entered of record. This order shall be final unless an appeal is taken from it to the circuit court within fifteen days after it has been entered.' In the Parsons case, we said: 'That court [county court] merely canvasses the returns and declares the result, its order constituting a permanent record of the outcome of the election. An appeal from that order would merely test the correctness of the court's tabulation of the returns. An election contest, on the other hand, involves the matter of going behind the returns and inquiring into the qualifications of the electors and other matters affecting the validity of the ballots.' See also Jones v. Lawless, Ark., 288 S.W.2d 324.

The Constitution requires the county court to make a finding as to the number of votes cast for and against the proposal submitted to the electors, and according to Act 294 of 1929 [Ark.Stats. § 13-1216], any one dissatisfied with the tabulation as announced by the court must appeal within 30 days. But such finding by the court does not amount to a judgment rendered in an election contest. Patterson v. Adcock, 157 Ark. 186, 248 S.W. 904, also supports the view that an entry of the result of the election is not an election contest.

We come now to the proposition of which court has jurisdiction in an action to contest an election held on the question of constructing a county hospital. Article 19, Section 24, of the Constitution provides: 'The General Assembly shall provide by law the mode of contesting elections in cases not specifically provided for in this Constitution.' Pursuant to this provision of the Constitution the General Assembly adopted Ark.Stats. § 3-1205 which places in the county court jurisdiction for the contesting of elections for county officers except that of county judge. In Glidewell v. Martin, 51 Ark. 559, 11 S.W. 882, 885, it is said: 'It is patent that the legislature was expected to confer this jurisdiction upon some board, council, or tribunal which might be inferior to the circuit court.'

Article 7, Section 11, of the Constitution gives the circuit court jurisdiction in all cases where exclusive original jurisdiction is not placed in some other court by the Constitution. But Article 7, Section 28, gives to another court--the county court--exclusive original jurisdiction in all matters of internal improvement and local concerns; it provides: 'County courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction in all matters relating to * * * the internal improvement and local concerns of the respective counties.' Is an election on the question of building a county hospital an internal improvement or a local concern of the county? If so, then according to the Constitution, the county court has exclusive original jurisdiction in the case at bar.

Some of our cases, which may appear to hold that the circuit court has jurisdiction in cases of this kind, are easily distinguished from the case at bar. For instance, Wheat v. Smith, 50 Ark. 266, 7 S.W. 161, and State ex rel. Attorney General v. Sams, 81 Ark. 39, 98 S.W. 955, hold that the circuit court has jurisdiction, but, upon examination, it will be seen that the issue in those cases was whether there had been an...

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5 cases
  • Curry v. Dawson
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • 1 June 1964
    ...contest and that the chancery court has no jurisdiction in such a cause. Rich v. Walker, 237 Ark. 586, 374 S.W.2d 476; Jones v. Dixon, 227 Ark. 955, 302 S.W.2d 529; Parsons v. Mason, 223 Ark. 281, 265 S.W.2d 526; Priest v. Mack, 194 Ark. 788, 109 S.W.2d 665; Hutto v. Rogers, 191 Ark. 787, 8......
  • Davis v. Waller
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • 1 June 1964
    ...and the mechanical counting and determining of results can be raised in appropriate proceeding after the election. See Jones v. Dixon, 227 Ark. 955, 302 S.W.2d 529. This is not to say, however, that questions of basic authority (such as the equipment issue raised by appellants herein, an at......
  • Ward v. Boone
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • 8 February 1960
    ...in question, such as county seat removals and elections * * * [and] contests over liquor elections.' In the recent case of Jones v. Dixon, 227 Ark. 955, 302 S.W.2d 529, we held that the county court had jurisdiction in an action to contest an election held on the question of constructing a ......
  • Vance v. Johnson
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • 1 February 1965
    ...the returns and inquiring into the qualifications of the electors and other matters affecting the validity of the ballots. Jones v. Dixon, 227 Ark. 955, 302 S.W.2d 529; Parsons v. Mason, 223 Ark. 281, 265 S.W.2d 526. Here, neither appellants nor appellee questions the certified returns, the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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