Election challenge could come within 10 days, lawyer says
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:00 PM
JACKSON - The Chris McDaniel U.S. Senate campaign stopped short of announcing an election challenge on Wednesday, but representatives said they will over the next 10 days continue to gather evidence of what they again described as rampant voter fraud in the June 24 Republican primary run-off.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran defeated McDaniel by more than 7,000 votes.
A "lot" of evidence of voter fraud was found, surrogates for McDaniel said at a press conference in Jackson without divulging any specifics.
"There were crossover votes," McDaniel campaign attorney Mitch Tyner alleged.
"We know that. We know there were all types of illegal votes, absentee ballot problems and vote-buying. We even checked the sign-in sheets to see if the number of people who signed in was the same number as the total votes cast, and you'd be amazed at how different the numbers are.
"We have found problem after problem after problem."
They complained about the cost of obtaining public records, particularly, as a barrier to a challenge.
Neither Tyner nor attorney Michael Watson, a Republican state senator from Jackson County and one of McDaniel's biggest supporters, offered any hard evidence, facts or numbers to back their allegations.
Instead, they pledged to print all the information in a report, which they plan to disseminate in the media and deliver to the U.S. Attorney's office, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and the authorities at the Federal Elections Commission, which drew applause from a group of McDaniel supporters present at the press conference outside of Tyner's Jackson law firm.
McDaniel was not present.
The Cochran campaign responded Wednesday afternoon with a press conference of it's own, where senior adviser Austin Barbour again called the accusations from the McDaniel camp baseless.
He said the McDaniel campaign has provided no evidence of allegations, saying they have failed to provide "one shred of evidence."
He went on to say the campaign is focusing on the November general election against Democratic challenger Travis Childers, and that they are stepping away from what has become a "circus."
For nearly a month, the McDaniel campaign had said they were working toward a legal challenge, claiming voter fraud is rampant in Mississippi and election laws need reforming.
Watson said Wednesday that the campaign would not file a legal challenge if it did not find enough evidence, but Tyner said minutes later, at the same press conference, that it already had enough evidence and would file an official challenge in court within the next 10 days.
"We're not going to try this case in the media," Tyner said. "We're not going to keep playing this game of 'We tell them what we've found, and they come back and dispute it.'"
For the past two weeks, the McDaniel campaign has resorted to guerrilla warfare-like tactics against the Mississippi election process, and the Cochran campaign has essentially told their opponents to "put up or shut up."
Earlier in the week, Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry said 300 to 350 votes out of 25,000, or 1.3 percent, were questionable in the June 24 run-off.
The number is significantly lower than McDaniel's earlier statements that at least 1,500 illegal votes helped to swing the most populous county in Mississippi for the six-term incumbent.
Perry, who doesn't hide that he was paid $60,000 by pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives during the election, said reviewers from the McDaniel campaign were given "unfettered access" to ballot boxes and poll books, at least in Hinds County. He added that the representatives from both campaigns also inspected 850 absentee ballots.
His role, he said, was strictly that of an observer.
"I am relieved to report that the review went as smoothly as could be imagined," he said. "I was also relieved that the numbers found by volunteers from both campaigns was close to my original estimate (that the number of possible votes would be in the low 300's)."
But on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Perry's press conference at the courthouse, McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch, in an interview with the Jackson Free Press, referenced an allegation of voter fraud against Perry.
"We hope the fact Pete Perry was paid $60,000 by Thad Cochran's super PAC to move Democrat votes in Hinds County had nothing to do with the fraud he is alleged to have engaged in," Fritsch said. "But we're glad Pete has taken a sudden interest in the integrity of the election, and hope he helps Mississippians find the truth about whether he ordered precincts to allow ineligible Democrats to vote illegally on June 24th."
Perry said Wednesday morning that he's unaware of any allegations of voter fraud made against him from anyone outside the McDaniel campaign, and fired back.
"Two weeks ago, prior to the examination, a representative of the Mississippi Tea Party stood right here and said that although they had just started looking at the poll books of Hinds County, they had already discovered over 800 cross-over voters," he said. "The next day, after a complete review, they said 1,200 cross-over votes had been found. Over the weekend, that 1,200 had inflated to 1,500 by the McDaniel campaign. In the following days, they said there would be as many as 3,000.
"I guess inflation occurs in campaigns with numbers just as it does with egos," Perry said.
Last Friday, McDaniel publicly accused Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who has no statutory authority over locally elected circuit clerks, of deliberately misleading circuit clerks to make it more difficult for his team to review election records.
On July 9, McDaniel sued Rankin County Circuit Clerk Rebecca Boyd for attempting to redact voter's personal information, such as birthdays, from voter books before releasing the information to the campaign. Two days prior, he asked a judge in Harrison County for an emergency order to force that county's Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker to provide his campaign volunteers with original copies of poll books.