'The Evidence Is Still Coming in': McDaniel Seeking Poll Book Access in Mississippi

While incumbent Thad Cochran will be the likely candidate to face Democrat and former Rep. Travis Childers this fall, state senator and Mississippi Republican U.S. Senate primary candidate Chris McDaniel is not throwing in the towel – and checking for voting irregularities across the state.

McDaniel’s ultimate goal is to get a new election by showing that people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary also voted in the June 24 Republican runoff.

“This affects every voter in Mississippi,” said Mitchell Tyner, a member of McDaniel’s legal team, at a July 16 press conference from his Jackson office. “The evidence is still coming in.”

Tyner said he has filed 20 writs of mandamus, which would give him access to a county’s poll book with no redacted information. Tyner said he had enough evidence to make a formal challenge and that crossover voting would be part of it. He filed the motion for reconsideration, hearing, and clarification before the state’s highest court on Friday. Friday’s motion included evidence of the costs a candidate would have if he or she were to gain access to the election records if the court’s ruling was allowed to stand.

That examination process took a hit when the state Supreme Court ruled on July 17 that Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Powell does not have to provide unredacted copies of the poll books from the June 24 runoff, according to The Sun Herald.

“After due consideration, we can discern no legal requirement that poll books should be included in the contents of the ballot boxes, see Miss. Code Ann. 23-15-591, nor are any allegations before us that the poll books at issue here were found in the Harrison County ballot boxes,” the ruling stated. “Poll books instead are official records of all persons qualified to vote in a particular county and properly preserved and maintained by the circuit clerk.”

The ruling went on to state that access to the information is controlled by the state’s public records act and that clerks must redact voters’ Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, date of birth and age before someone else makes use of the records.

With two of the justices absent, Tyner said he wanted to also present an oral argument before the court.

Despite the setback, McDaniel is undeterred in his goal to gain access to the records.

“A candidate for office in Mississippi should not have to raise $100,000 to verify an election was carried out legally in every single one of Mississippi’s 82 counties,” he said. “We are confident the full panel of Justices will do the right thing, and we remain undeterred in our efforts to gain access to the election records in the counties where we have not been granted access to records thus far.”