Sen. Thad Cochran’s second-round primary victory may be nullified if Chris McDaniel’s team can show the margin of victory was less than the number of people who wrongly voted in both Democratic and GOP primaries.
“It’s tedious, but it is a simple task [to check and] Mississippi state law is very clear on this,” said Bill Pascoe, a political consultant for Independent Women’s Voice, which backed McDaniel.
Last July, the mayoral election for the state’s fourth largest city, Hattiesburg, was nullified after the losing candidate showed that the 37-vote margin of victory was smaller than the pool of suspect absentee ballots.
Those absentee ballots included 36 that were delivered to the Democratic mayor’s wife, and were later filled out by jail inmates, including a felon who was disbarred from voting.
McDaniel took the first step June 26 to reverse his defeat by asking the Mississippi GOP Chairman Joe Nosef to help McDaniel’s volunteers inspect the so-called “pollbooks.”
Those books record who cast a ballot in the June 3 Democratic primary and in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. If the number of voters have cast ballots in both elections is greater than Cochran’s margin of victory, Pascoe said, the court will schedule a third election.
“Circuit clerks should be instructed to be as helpful as possible to our volunteers as they check the poll books,” McDaniel said.
“We want to be clear: this is being done to maintain the integrity of the election process and that a fair and honest election was held on behalf of all Mississippians,” he added.
Six-term Cochran won the June 24 runoff, by 50.8 to 49.2 percent, with a margin of less than 7,000 votes among 375,000 votes cast.
It is perfectly legal for Democrats to vote in the GOP’s June 24 primary — unless they had voted in the earlier June 3 Democratic primary.
A June 24 survey showed that McDaniel — a small-government reformer — got only 11.8 percent of votes from people who describe themselves as Democrats, while Cochran got 70.6 percent of the self-declared Democrats’ votes.
The remaining 17.6 percent of the self-declared Democrats declined to say who they supported, according to the survey of 500 voters by Independent Women’s Voice.
County-level data shows that turnout in mostly-black counties jumped up 40 percent on June 24. In mostly-white counties, turnout rose only 16 percent.
The higher black turnout followed a series of fliers and robocalls that suggested McDaniel was racist.
Mississippi is one of the most racially polarized states in the country, and nearly all African-Americans in the state vote Democrat.
But the total of duplicative votes from black counties may not be enough to reverse Cochran’s under-7,000 vote-advantage.
That’s because Cochran and his business allies — including former governor Haley Barbour — also boosted turnout among Cochran’s GOP supporters who had failed to vote in the first GOP primary.