UPDATE: Benton Harbor mayoral recall election called off

BENTON HARBOR A judge today cancelled next week’s scheduled recall election in Benton Harbor.

That means residents won’t be going to the polls next Tuesday after all.

“I knew that there was no judge in the land that would allow this election to take place,” said recall target, Mayor James Hightower. “Today is not a win for James Hightower, but it’s a win for the City of Benton Harbor and its residents, they are protected and that’s what the law is supposed to do.”

Berrien County Circuit Court Judge John Dewane bought into the allegation that fraud was likely involved in the recall petition process that caused an election to be scheduled in the first place.

“This election, as I said from the very beginning that it was based on some foul petitions,” said Mayor Hightower.

In his ruling, Judge Dewayne notes that signatures on petitions dated November 8, 2013 later had a one or two added to them (in front of the eight) in a different type of ink.

That made it erroneously appear as if the signatures in question were actually gathered on the 18th or 28th, and were within the 60-day time deadline for collecting signatures.

“You could tell you could look at the dates and tell that they had been altered,” said Mayor Hightower.

This marks the third unsuccessful recall attempt Hightower has faced during his two and a half years in office. Barring another, his term as mayor is supposed to run through the end of 2015.

“We have to settle the government of Benton Harbor, put it into a position where people respect it, and start getting down to business and doing the work instead of fighting and the back and forth,” said Hightower.

Hightower characterized the recall efforts as “a personal attack.”

Criminal charges related to election fraud have been filed against Rev. Edward Pinkney, and James Cornelius. Today’s ruling dealt only with civil matters and whether the election would go on next week as scheduled.

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