Chris McDaniel Files Incredibly Weak Challenge To Mississippi GOP Primary Results
More than a month after the results were final and the initial results of complaints about the outcome of the runoff election in the Mississippi Republican Primary began, complaints that mostly focused on the fact that Thad Cochran managed to get people who don’t ordinarily vote in Republican primaries to vote for him, Chris McDaniel has finally filed a formal challenge to the outcome of the election, and it is and incredibly weak one:
Chris McDaniel on Monday filed his long-awaited challenge of the June 24 GOP primary for U.S. Senate, saying he’s found enough illegal and questionable votes that the state Republican Party should declare him the winner.
McDaniel’s challenge seeks to show a “pattern of conduct,” through a three-ring binder of allegations that includes press stories, people’s social media posts, polling of voters after the primary and lists and affidavits about questionable votes.
“Justice has no timetable,” McDaniel said to a crowd of media and supporters before his lawyers presented binders to media. “They asked me to put up or shut up. Here we are with the evidence.”
McDaniel, a state senator from Ellisville with tea party backing, is contesting his loss in the runoff by 7,667 votes to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel claims he’ll show “a pattern of conduct” and more than 15,000 illegal, improper or questionable votes.
McDaniel filed his challenge with the state Republican Party on Monday, a first legal step. Assuming the party’s decision is challenged, or if it fails to make one, the case would next head to a circuit court, with the state Supreme Court appointing a special judge to hear the case.
In his complaint, McDaniel claims that shortly after the runoff “evidence came to light that not only was the Cochran campaign soliciting Democratic votes, but specific Cochran campaign personnel were named as participating in a criminal vote-buying scheme.”
The Cochran campaign has called allegations of vote buying or other fraud “baseless” and said numbers of questionable votes are small – around 1,000 — and within normal percentages of human error for an election.
McDaniel’s complaint includes a recording of Meridian man Stevie Fielder claiming he helped the Cochran campaign buy votes. Fielder, who was paid by an online news outlet for his story, has since recanted most of his story, and state Attorney General Jim Hood said last week that his office investigated and determined Fielder was paid to lie about vote buying.
McDaniel’s complaint also includes a recording of a Republican poll worker in Marshall County claiming she heard voters leaving her precinct talking about how they would use vouchers they were given for voting.
Mississippi has open primaries, and does not require party registration by voters. But there is a state law – which has been deemed unenforceable – that says someone should not vote in a primary unless they intend to support that party’s nominee in a general election. McDaniel’s complaint cites a poll of 433 Democrats who voted in the June 24 GOP primary that found 71 percent said they didn’t intend to support the Republican nominee in November. The complaint also notes that “social media sites were active” after the runoff with Democrats saying they voted for Cochran in the primary but would not in the general.
McDaniel’s complaint says Cochran caused serious harm to the state primary process by “hustling Democrat voters into the Republican primary through race baiting scare tactics.”
In the weeks after the primary runoff, McDaniel supporters and others made several allegations regarding the June 24th election, but the only one that was potentially serious was the allegation that people who had voted in the Democratic Senate primary on June 3rd had voted in the Republican runoff in June 24th. Even though Mississippi has open primaries, that particular practice is forbidden by law and, ordinarily, something one would expect to be caught by poll workers at the polling place, or by those who are counting absentee ballots. For weeks, McDaniel’s campaign claimed that it had evidence that this in fact had happened and, while it was always a long shot that they could both prove their claims and do so to a sufficient degree that would given them whatever relief they would be requesting. As the weeks dragged on, though, McDaniel’s campaign continually failed to provide the evidence to support these claims other than innuendo, and more often than not their complaints and those of their supporters were quite obviously based more on outrage over the fact that Cochran had gotten African-Americans to vote for him in a Republican Primary.
McDaniel’s complaint isn’t really based on the allegations of supposed “illegal voting,” though. Instead, it’s based on the incredibly weak ground of unfounded reports of vote buying, specifically allegations that African-Americans were paid to go to the polls, an allegation based almost entirely on the statements of someone who was paid for his information and since recanted his statements. It is also based on a provision in Mississippi law that states that when a person votes in a party primary, they are making a promise to support the party nominee in November regardless of who that person ends up being. This is not dissimilar from the “loyalty oath” that Virginia Republicans tried to force primary voters to take several years ago, and suffers from the same problems. For one thing, the provision is completely unenforceable since there is simply now way of proving that a person who voted in a primary did not have such an intention at the time that they voted. Additionally, since individual votes are confidential, there would be no way of actually determining if someone voted Republican in a primary and Democratic, or third party, in a General Election. There is also a significant First Amendment issue with any law that attempts to enforce political loyalty in an open primary such as this law does. For this reason, laws such as a the one on the books in Mississippi are seldom enforced. In McDaniel’s case, though, the argument is made even weaker by the fact that their primary evidence that his campaign is putting forward to support their claim that this provision of the law was violated consists of polling that was conducted after the election. Obviously, there’s no reason to accept that polling as determinative of anything.
Given all of this, the outcome of McDaniel’s challenges seem blindingly obvious. The state GOP is not going to overturn the outcome of the election based on such flimsy evidence, and Mississippi’s courts, which have largely been reluctant to overturn election results in the past, are unlikely to give him much of a hearing either. In the end, McDaniel seems to be following the same path of other Tea Party darlings onto the Fox News/talk radio/speaking gig circuit. Most certainly, whatever future he might have had in Mississippi politics will be ruined by the time this is over and done with. Then again, like most Tea Party grifters, McDaniel quite obviously doesn’t care about accomplishing anything constructive in the political world to begin with so I suppose this all makes sense to him.