The 2014 Republican Senate primary still isn’t over.
Tea Party candidate for the U. S. Senate Chris McDaniel formally announced Monday that he is going to appeal the results of the June 24 Republican runoff.
Rather than asking for a new election, the two-term Ellisville state senator is asking the state Republican Executive Committee to rescind their certification of the runoff results in which they declared six-term incumbent Thad Cochran winner. He is asking the committee, based on evidence he is submitting, to declare him the winner and party nominee.
At this point, McDaniel’s 243-page challenge will not affect Union County voters since he is not asking for a new election. However, if McDaniel loses his appeal to the executive committee the challenge may move into the circuit court system. The Associated Press reported that it could find no instance of a statewide election being ordered by the courts in Mississippi in at least the past 60 years, however.
If a new election were to be ordered, only then would that conflict with the general election set for Nov. 4 since there must be at least 45 days for balloting for each election.
To succeed in his challenge, McDaniel probably would have to prove that enough illegal votes were cast to potentially change the election outcome, or that the process was so incompetently handled to legitimately leave the result in doubt.
McDaniel’s attorney, Mitch Tyner, said the McDaniel campaign has, after examining voting materials throughout the state, had found 3,500 so-called “crossover” votes, 9,500 “irregular votes” and 2,275 “improperly cast” absentee ballots.
It was not made clear what constituted an irregular or improperly cast vote during the announcement press conference, and there is no way to tell whether machine-cast “crossover” votes were for Cochran or McDaniel. The absentee ballots, however, do specify one candidate each and can be tracked.
Although Mississippi voters do not register by party affiliation, state law does make casting a vote in one party’s primary and another party’s runoff a misdemeanor. Actual prosecution in such a case appears to be virtually unheard-of according to local election officials, and the law unenforceable.
McDaniel’s campaign accuses the Cochran campaign of a variety of unethical or illegal practices, mostly focusing on the apparent increased black turnout in Hinds County but still listing specifics on several other counties.
Although the complaint details many alleged instances of voting impropriety, it lists no complaints or errors relating to Union County.
McDaniel representatives did examine Union County voting records in July, observed by a representative of the Cochran campaign, but the McDaniel camp reportedly found only four “questionable” votes while the Cochran representative actually identified as many as nine. There was no written explanation as to what criteria were being used to designate a vote as questionable and Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford attributed them to no more than human error.
McDaniel finished the June 3 primary 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran but did not have the majority needed to avoid a runoff. In the runoff, voter turnout actually increased considerably with Cochran eventually being certified as winner, leading by 7,667 votes and ending up with 51 percent – still a very close election.
The Cochran campaign denies all the charges and says it is concentrating on meeting Democratic challenger Travis Childers of Booneville and Reform candidate Shawn O’Hara Nov. 4.
McDaniel has asked for a public hearing by the executive committee within eight days and a committee representative said Wednesday that they will not act on the appeal, believing the courts are the proper place to make a decision.