By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who was on the losing end of Tuesday’s U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff but still has not conceded, urged county circuit clerks Thursday to cooperate with his supporters who want to inspect election results for irregularities.
In a news release, McDaniel said he sent a letter to state Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef, urging him to ask circuit clerks to cooperate with his supporters.
“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,” McDaniel said.
In Lee County, a deputy clerk said no one from either McDaniel’s campaign or that of incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, who won the runoff, had requested to see the poll books. She said Lee County would cooperate but needed a way to ensure that voters’ private information, such as birth dates, was not released.
McDaniel, who won the first primary by 1,418 votes, was defeated in the runoff election Tuesday by roughly 6,700 votes, or 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.
While there was no activity at the Lee County Circuit Clerk’s office, the Tea Party supporters of McDaniel were busy Thursday at the Hinds County Circuit Clerk’s office.
Hinds County has become the center of the controversy that McDaniel supporters believe occurred in Tuesday’s elections. There Cochran defeated McDaniel 11,479 to 5,830 in the first primary and by 17,948 to 6,967 in the second primary.
McDaniel and his supporters believe many of Cochran’s additional votes in Hinds, and some other smaller counties, came from people who traditionally vote Democratic, particularly black voters.
McDaniel said he won the runoff when counting the votes of only Republicans.
But there is no party registration in Mississippi. The only restriction on Mississippi voters is if they voted in the first primary they cannot vote in the other party’s runoff primary. In other words, the people who voted in the Democratic primary on June 3 could not vote in Tuesday’s Republican Party runoff.
Laura Van Overschelde, chairwoman of the Mississippi Tea Party, said Thursday during a news conference from the Hinds County Courthouse that her group already had found 800 instances in Hinds County of people who voted Democratic on June 3 and Republican on Tuesday.
But Pete Perry, chair of the Hinds County Republican Party, said he believes most of the problems the Tea Party inspectors are finding are the results of simple human error that would not change the outcome of the election. He said 200 of the 800 illegal crossovers cited by Overschelde occurred at one precinct where the poll workers marked the wrong column, and the people had not actually voted illegally. He said the same error occurred in other precincts.
“They are trying to inflate the numbers to make a good story out of it,” he said.
Perry estimated, based on his inspection of the ballots, that about 3,500 blacks, who normally vote Democratic, voted in the Republican primary in Hinds County on Tuesday. But he said a few of those people voted for McDaniel.
If African-Americans voted in the Republican primary, “what is wrong with that,” asked state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood. “They have a constitutional right.”