Campaigns give mixed signals over local ballot reviews

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Recent ballot reviews in the U.S. Senate primary election have led to mixed signals from officials in Republican challenger Chris McDaniel’s and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaigns.

After two days of reviewing the Lincoln County ballot boxes, McDaniel and Cochran campaign representatives are reporting vastly different irregular voting numbers.

Adam Calcote, Thad campaign representative, was present both Monday and Tuesday to observe the ballot box review in the Lincoln County circuit clerk’s office this week. After careful observation, he came to the conclusion that there were 12 total crossover votes found by McDaniel representatives and two of them were questionable.





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Calcote’s observations align with the trend of the overall Cochran campaign’s results for ballot box investigations statewide. In the majority of Mississippi counties, their results have come in with fewer than 20 irregularities found by the McDaniel representatives per county and most in the single digits. These are still subject to review by the circuit clerk in each county.

However, Bobby Riggs, volunteer McDaniel representative, said there were numerous instances of questionable voting in Lincoln County. These included everything from mismatched signatures to mislabeled poll books, he reported.

Riggs’ calculations are in line with the recent claims by McDaniel about over 5,000 ineligible votes across the state. Riggs said that after review of the ballot boxes it was an obviously unfair election. Not only was there evidence of negligent poll workers, there was also sufficient data to suggest voter bribery was involved in the June 24 runoff election, Riggs said.

“I am tired of criminals disenfranchising me to take over an election,” said Riggs. “There is a serious amount of evidence that points to voters being bought.” He explained that illegal voting practices nullify his legally cast ballot.

Attorney Mitch Tyner, who is representing McDaniel, said that there was a statewide trend of voter bribery.

“I find it very unusual for a Republican primary to have reports of walking around money or vote buying,” said Tyner. He said this kind of behavior is usually exclusively found in Democrat elections.

Tyner said that the McDaniel campaign is focusing on absentee ballots in their review process. He added that most voter fraud is primarily from ineligible absentee ballots.

According to Mississippi primary election procedures, the McDaniel camp poll watchers could have contested ballots on election day in accordance with Mississippi law. If they had contested them, they would not have been counted in the general election until further review.

There are two types of absentee votes that were counted by Lincoln County officials: one were votes sent in by mail and the others were votes made prior to the election in the circuit clerk’s office with a clerk’s office official present. Riggs said that there were irregularities found in both types of voting.

Riggs added that he is only documenting the voting issues and passing along the information. He said no numbers or summaries will be released until everything is processed.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said based on results he witnessed from the ballot box examinations; he feels that Lincoln County held a fair and honest election with few errors. He added that at face value he could not agree with the high numbers found by the McDaniel representatives.

In a press conference in Jackson Monday, Tyner said that he is confident that after reviewing all the ballot boxes statewide, there will be at least 6,700 ineligible votes, which would close the gap between McDaniel and Cochran. According to Tyner, this would result in an automatic runoff.

The Mississippi Republican Party on Monday certified the final results of the runoff, reporting Cochran received 194,932 votes to defeat McDaniel’s 187,265. The margin between them was 7,667 votes.

In the Lincoln County Republican primary runoff, there were 3,021 ballots cast for Cochran and 2,186 cast for McDaniel, 456 of them were paper ballots, which include absentee, ballots cast outside the polling place on election day and all other affidavits. Cochran took 284 of the absentee ballots and McDaniel took 172 in the county.