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Race-Baiting Mississippi Senate Runoff to Help Thad Cochran

The final days of the Mississippi runoff for United States Senate has taken a turn to the bizarre. Leftist academics and their "journolist" friends in the media are warning that Mississippi is about to return to 1963, where vigilante racists lurk about trying to scare away blacks from the ballot box.

We’ve seen the scare tactics before. Usually the effort to stoke up a racially paranoid base swirls around voter ID laws. Now, it swirls around laws ensuring election transparency.

I am helping to manage a poll-observer program across Mississippi in Tuesday’s runoff election between challenger Chris McDaniel and incumbent Thad Cochran. Using the Mississippi election laws designed to bring transparency to the election process and to record any illegal behavior, trained observers will be watching the polls.

Listening to the New York Times, you would think Jim Crow was back. They’re feeding the same false narrative: the Tea Party supporters of Chris McDaniel are bucktooth racists that will break the law to stop minorities from raiding the Republican primary to help Thad Cochran. The election observer program by conservatives, the Times reports,  “evokes memories of the civil rights struggles of the state’s past.”

Seriously.

Mississippi has total transparency in the conduct of elections. Observers are permitted to observe the process to ensure that Mississippi election laws are followed.

Central to Cochran’s survival strategy is an organized and open effort to get Democrats to raid the Republican primary. Mississippi law has a prohibition against voting in the Republican primary if you do not intend to support the nominee in November. The law is still on the books. A case which undermined the statute was thrown out and vacated by a federal appeals court. The closest thing there is questioning the law is an old attorney general’s opinion questioning the enforceability of the law.

The attorney general’s opinion, issued by a Democrat in 2003, doesn’t do what the left is claiming it does. For starters, it is simply an attorney general’s opinion. When I went to law school, we learned that such opinions are not binding authority. These days it seems that they are binding authority, as long as the left agrees with the outcome.

But the AG opinion cites eight reasons a voter may be challenged. Number 8 says “(g) That he is otherwise disqualified by law.” "Otherwise disqualified by law" certainly might mean they aren’t supposed to vote in the primary because they don’t qualify under Mississippi Code 23-15-575.

When I went to law school, we also learned about the canon of statutory interpretation that “courts must not construe statutes so as to nullify, void or render meaningless or superfluous.”

The chairs of the Democrat Party and Republican Party recognize what the academics apparently do not. Both are calling for Democrats not to raid the Republican runoff Tuesday. But that doesn’t matter to the partisans who don’t mind a bit of illegality if it helps them get what they want.

This has led Rick Hasen, the "Chancellor's Professor of Law and Political Science" at the recently accredited University of California at Irvine Law School, to publish a series of brazenly false headlines such as “Conservative 'Election Observers' in Mississippi May Be Meant to Intimidate Democratic Voters in Cochran-McDaniel Race.” (Link to Hasen's webpage here.)

A lie. But no matter, he’s a professor. He must be right.

Hasen Hasen

It must be wrong for courts to render laws superfluous, but ok for law professors.

The fact is that we don’t need election observers to detect if Democrats are raiding the Republican runoff. Public information will likely provide the answers in time.

A voter’s history is public record. A few clicks of a mouse can give anyone the names of every Mississippi voter who voted only in Democrat primaries and then magically showed up this Tuesday, presumably to vote for Thad Cochran. The database of voters can be managed to develop lists of names of voters who voted in 3, 6, 12, 20, whatever, straight Democrat primaries before voting in the Republican runoff on Tuesday.

While that might not be acceptable evidence in the halls of academia to show that Democrats illegally voted in the Republican runoff, to anyone with common sense, it provides a pretty good indication about what was happening.

Nobody needs election observers to obtain information that a computer can provide. That inconvenient fact undermines the desperate efforts to smear fine folks who care about following the law. Lawlessness might be in vogue in some parts of the country, but in Mississippi, the rule of law is still respected.

Which brings us back to the academics trying to conjure Mississippi’s ghosts from the summer of 1964. Notice the rhetorical trick by Professor Matthew Steffey in the New York Times. He tells the New York Times, “Some folks think this is not really about legal challenges to individual ballots, but about dissuading or in some cases intimidating voters.”

Some folks? Which folks? Why didn’t he say? Why didn’t the New York Times interview those “folks”?

Unattributed hearsay is now driving national political stories at the New York Times. Never mind the pesky burden of attribution from a paper trying to stoke racial tensions. Hearsay from a law professor will do just fine.

This is the way the left mobilizes the race base. Vague threats, sinister plots, the resurrection of Jim Crow from the dead, lies – these are the tools the left and academics use to help elected politicians who better suit their worldview. We’ll see if it works on Tuesday.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)