Chris McDaniel, Tea Party candidate for the U. S. Senate, made good on his promise to take his runoff loss to Thad Cochran to the courts this past Thursday. If he is successful, it could have an impact on the election process in Union County as well as statewide.
McDaniel filed suit against Cochran in McDaniel’s home county of Jones after the state Republican executive committee refused to consider his approximately 243-page challenge.
Unlike his original complaint, which charged widespread voting irregularities and asked only that vote totals in those counties be thrown out to declare him winner, his suit in circuit court is potentially asking for a new Republican runoff as well.
He wants the court to supersede the July 7 certification of Cochran as winner, and issue an injunction against the party’s further naming Cochran as winner. McDaniel also asks the court to issue an injunction preventing Cochran’s name to be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot and to order all circuit clerks in the state “to preserve and secure all the original documentation in any way relating to the June 3 and June 24” primary elections. This would interrupt the Nov. 4 general election process, of course, with results not yet determined.
Citing the information in his earlier claim, McDaniel charges that the state executive committees “have allowed (or fostered) vote fraud and irregularities” and that “The extensive vote fraud and irregularities in some counties, specifically including Hinds County, requires that the results from those counties be removed from the count so as not to contaminate all other county election results.”
McDaniel alleges a wide variety of technical voting violations in terms of record-keeping but focuses on “cross-over voting,” in which he charges Cochran’s win was dependent on Democratic voters who may have voted in the June 3 Democratic primary, then voted in the Republican run-off with no intention of also voting Republican in the general election. While cross-over voting is illegal, charges are generally deemed impossible to prove; there is no way to tell whether a voter will support a Democratic, Republican or other candidate in a future election.
In addition to asking for injunctions to halt the election process, McDaniel is asking the court to throw out the results of counties where the alleged irregularities occurred, which would prove him to be the winner, and for the court to declare him the winner or, alternately, order a new election.
The Associated Press has 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.
The two-term Ellisville state senator 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.
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 the complaint detailed many alleged instances of voting impropriety, it listed no complaints or errors relating to Union County.
The Cochran campaign has denied all the charges and says it is concentrating on meeting Democratic challenger Travis Childers of Booneville and Reform candidate Shawn O’Hara Nov. 4.