By John Gizzi, Newsmax, July 4, 2014
State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Mississippi is charging voter fraud in his GOP primary runoff loss to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and has vowed to ask state courts to overturn the outcome.
“We’ve gone into 51 counties, carefully reviewed the ballots, and found more than 4,900 irregularities,” McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch told Newsmax.
By “irregularities,” Fritsch referred to voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary June 3 and then crossed over to vote in the Republican U.S. Senate runoff June 24 between Cochran and McDaniel. This is illegal under Magnolia State election law.
With 31 counties remaining in which to examine ballots and more than 19,000 absentee ballots under scrutiny, Fritsch said, “We are confident there were enough votes cast illegally to ask the state courts to overturn the results.”
Cochran is sure to be certified as the nominee by the Republican State Executive Committee, whereupon McDaniel’s campaign will file its lawsuit alleging fraud.
“It won’t go anywhere because there was no fraud — none that I’m aware of,” said Henry Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican National Committeeman and a Cochran supporter.
Admitting that “there might be some who voted in the Democratic primary and the Republican runoff,” Barbour said he estimated that “the number of those ineligible voters is in the hundreds and no more. We believe the race is over.”
Barbour said when McDaniel narrowly led the incumbent in the initial primary, “It was a wake-up call to Sen. Cochran’s base. We thought we had this won and were stunned. A lot of the senator’s supporters didn’t vote.”
He added that because Mississippi has no voter registration by party, deciding in which primary to vote is up to the voter when he or she arrives at the polls.
“And a traditional Republican voter can participate in a Democratic primary, as Mr. McDaniel did when he voted in ’03,” Barbour said.
Where runoff elections in the South historically attract a lower turnout than in the initial primaries, about 61,000 more people turned out for the Cochran-McDaniel runoff than in the three-candidate primary three weeks before. In contrast to the first race — in which Cochran trailed McDaniel by 1,318 votes out of more than 313,000 cast — the incumbent led in the runoff by 6,479 votes out of more than 375,000 cast.
In the 17 counties in the predominately black Delta part of Mississippi, Cochran’s voters went from 12,737 in the first primary to 17,846 in the runoff.
“We did campaign for black votes and for white votes,” Barbour said, “and there is an historic segment to this: Many black Mississippians voted in a Republican primary for the first time.”
Several McDaniel backers have charged that “scare tactics” were deployed by the pro-Cochran Mississippi Conservatives Super PAC headed by Barbour, whose top fundraiser was his uncle, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Some have said that robocalls likening McDaniel and the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan were the work of Barbour and the SuperPAC.
“That’s ridiculous and offensive!” Henry Barbour said. “Some other groups may have done that but we did not.”
There is the inevitable question as to why McDaniel pursues this path when candidates who dispute election outcomes are historically seen as sore losers and rarely make a comeback.
“The real issue here is maintaining the integrity of the electoral process,” McDaniel spokesman Fritsch said, “so that Mississippians have faith in their public officials. We need to do whatever we can do to end the venal nature of politics.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.