The Mississippi Republican Party has filed suit against the Leflore County Election Commission and a poll manager alleging they improperly assisted voters.

The suit claims officials "failed to execute their mandatory statutory duties" by permitting unauthorized persons to escort voters not needing assistance to the machines, and instructing them to cast votes for specific candidates.

The suit further alleges an election official prohibited duly authorized poll watchers from properly observing the election and ignoring complaints against the election shenanigans. A lawsuit represents one side of a dispute.

Shortly before the election, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in a memo reminded election officials: "Only voters who are: 1) blind, 2) physically disabled, or 3) cannot read or write are eligible to receive voter assistance and then, only after the voter has verbally requested such assistance."

Republican witnesses claim the voters in question were without apparent disability, walked without assistance as though they were not blind, and did not request assistance.

If the Republican poll watchers are right, then if the voters were illiterate, they were also telepathic.

The GOP claims the some voters never spoke at the voting machine to ask or direct the person assisting them on their choices. Instead, witnesses claim the "assistors" pointed at names and told voters to "vote for that one" and "vote for him."

Republican poll watchers say voters were told to vote for Ronnie Musgrove for Senate because he is the Democrat (the special Senate election between Musgrove and Roger Wicker had no partisan identifiers on the ballot). They say at other times, these "assistors" simply instructed, "the first one, the first one, the first one" on the ballot that listed Democratic candidates first. The GOP claims ballots were even removed from the voting area.

A Secretary of State memo obtained by Republicans through an open records request and shared with the press, suggests the identity of two of the "assistors" is tied to a local school board race.

The memo identifies them as a sister and sister-in-law of Freddie White-Johnson. White-Johnson, founder and executive director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation, was one of three candidates on the ballot for the Leflore District 5 School Board race. She lost to Shemeka Collins, president of the East Elementary School PTA and wife of Leflore District 5 Supervisor Robert Collins.

Robert Collins defeated Larry "Kite" Johnson, husband of Freddie White-Johnson, last year in the Democratic Primary run-off for supervisor. According to the official Leflore County recapitulation sheets, only two precincts participated in the school board contest with 95 percent of all votes cast in Southeast Greenwood, making this the focused precinct of all campaigns. All politics is local.

Republican poll watchers claim they repeatedly reported these violations to the poll manager but they say she ignored or failed to act and became angry.

One Republican poll watcher said Gail Griggs, the poll manager named in the lawsuit, told him she thought these voters were all legally using their right to assistance.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue a writ of mandamus to bind the defendants and their successors to properly execute their responsibilities in future elections. Because the GOP's original suit, filed the day of the election, was not acted on in time to affect the conduct of the election, the Republicans maintain this suit is necessary because the misdeeds are "capable of repetition, yet evading review" in future election without action.

Mississippi GOP Chairman Brad White said, "We will not tolerate voter fraud, voter intimidation, and violations of election laws. We want the next election in Leflore County to follow the law. And we want voters, candidates, and elected officials around the state to know we support honest elections and will fight against election fraud."

White doesn't bluff. He cut his teeth on fighting partisan and biased election officials. This column wrote in 2000 about White's efforts as Simpson County Republican Chairman against the local Democratic machine. During White's first four years as county chairman, White assisted party switches by a mayor, three aldermen, the chancery clerk and the president of the board of supervisors; the GOP primary grew by over 100 percent; local Republicans took control of conducting their primary away from the circuit clerk; and White stood up and legally challenged election mischief.

While Mississippi Republicans bucked the national trend in 2008, many local party members are wondering the same things other party members are discussing around the country. They claim new leadership will help the GOP regain the strength of a majority party. In Mississippi, along with national Republican leader Gov. Haley Barbour, Republicans have an aggressive, young chairman who knows election laws and will fight for fair conduct at the polls, has the grassroots experience to build and grow a party, is committed to conservative principles, and is not afraid to fight for what he believes is right.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.