McDaniel says Madison votes must be tossed
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:00 PM
JACKSON - Madison County election results should be tossed out, Chris McDaniel is arguing as he seeks to have the Republican Party declare him winner of the U.S. Senate primary in an election challenge he filed on Monday.
The filing is not a formal legal challenge, but an appeal to the Republican Party. The campaign is not asking for a new election. McDaniel is asking to be declared the winner, claiming he won by 25,000 votes.
McDaniel included Madison in a list of counties he argues helped swing the results of the June 24 Republican Senate primary runoff to incumbent Thad Cochran.
The McDaniel camp is accusing Madison County election officials of losing voter signature books, presenting unsealed ballot boxes, misplacing ballot inventory receipts, "commingling" affidavit ballots from all precincts into a since box and allowing 425 Democrats to submit a cross-over vote.
Madison County, they argued in the findings they presented to the State's Republican Executive Committee, is one of five counties (also including Hinds, Sunflower, Claiborne and Coahoma) that, in their opinion, should be "excluded from the statewide results."
"If Hinds County results are excluded from the statewide count, as remedy for fraud requires, the statewide results show that Chris McDaniel is the choice of the qualified Republican electors to the nominee for U.S. Senate," the complaint states. "The results are the same if the results from Claiborne, Coahoma, Madison and Sunflower Counties are likewise excluded."
At a Monday press conference outside attorney Mitch Tyner's Jackson law office, McDaniel said voting irregularities across the state - and not Mississippi's registered Republicans - pushed Cochran to a nearly 8,000-vote victory.
Tyner said evidence he provided to the GOP will prove that McDaniel actually won the primary by 25,000 votes.
Tyner said the investigation uncovered some 9,500 questionable votes - a qualification he later interpreted as "a vote that could be brought into question, for one reason or another" - and 3,600 crossover votes, including 425 in Madison County alone.
Madison County Circuit Clerk Lee Westbrook said Tuesday that she was surprised to see the allegations made against Madison County, and refuted their validity.
"One of the allegations was that the memory cards for the voting machines were lost," Westbrook said.
"I can tell you that never once has Madison County lost a memory card - they are taken from the precinct and loaded in the counting machine on election night. We cannot complete the election process without it, so there's no way we have ever lost one."
Westbrook added that the accusation that the ballot bags were unsealed is completely unfounded.
"I keep those bags locked up tight," she said. "I opened them for the review, and when both the McDaniel and Cochran people completed their review of the ballot bags, they were resealed and returned to the locked election room they came from."
When it comes to the 425 cross-over votes McDaniel's campaign claims to have found in Madison County, Westbrook said she could see there being human error, but suggested that it was probably an error in paperwork, and not an intentional breaking of the law.
"There's a chance that a poll worker, concentrating on making sure that the June 3 box was not marked if the voter wanted to cast a vote on June 24, marked in the wrong box by mistake," she said.
"But I find it hard to believe that any of our poll workers in Madison County would knowingly and willingly allow anyone to cast an illegal vote."
The McDaniel camp complains in its filing about the participation of black voters in the June 24 runoff - noting that the 10 counties where Cochran's support between the primary and the runoff increased the most are the 10 most predominantly black counties in the state.
It uses Hinds County as an example, citing the fact that Cochran's support increased by 7,955 votes between June 3 and June 24 in the "majority black and predominantly Democrat county."
An analysis of results, it added, reveals that "...with the percentage of blacks and non-blacks who make up each county's population shows that, without the predominantly Democrat voter participation in the Republican runoff, Cochran would have lost the runoff election by about 25,000 votes."
McDaniel's challenge also cites a now-debunked story from a Meridian Reverend named Steve Fielder who Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has said solicited money from an out-of-state blogger to lie, on the record, about his involvement in a pay-for-votes scheme in Lauderdale County.
The report also includes a recording of Fielder, made by the blogger, claiming he helped the Cochran campaign buy votes. Fielder has recanted almost all of his story, and according to Hood, admitted he was "paid to lie."
Lawyers for the Cochran campaign called the allegations "baseless."
McDaniel's attorney's have asked to be given a chance to make their case to the GOP by Tuesday, Aug. 12.
After Aug. 14, according to election laws, any challenge to the election will have to come through the Mississippi court system.