McDaniel sues Neshoba County
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:00 AM
Chris McDaniel has sued Neshoba County Circuit Clerk Patti Duncan Lee alleging she withheld voting records in connection with his review of the June 24 U.S. Senate Republican primary election results.
A response on behalf of Lee by County Attorney Wade White says "McDaniel's representatives were given access" to the information they requested and that Lee denies the allegation she "refused to permit access to poll books and voting records."
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran won the primary run-off by more than 7,000 votes.
McDaniel, in an e-mail fundraising plea on Tuesday, said he's "working tirelessly to prove that thousands of illegal votes were cast."
While unspecific, McDaniel said, the campaign has "identified thousands of irregular and hard crossover votes, and we've still not been granted access to all data in all counties around the state. We still have a lot of work to do, but we're making progress."
McDaniel, represented by plaintiffs attorney Mitch Tyner of Jackson, filed a writ of mandamus on July 10 commanding Lee to "obey and perform the requirements of state law."
Steve C. Thornton of Jackson and Michael D. Watson of Pascagoula are also listed as attorneys of record for McDaniel.
McDaniel is seeking an emergency hearing on the petition that would be heard by Circuit Judge Marcus D. Gordon, who could call a hearing any day.
White said Neshoba County is willing to cooperate in any way that's within the law.
The suit claims Lee denied McDaniel representatives access to poll books and other election materials due to "privacy concerns" and "public records disclosure requirements."
McDaniel is claiming that as a candidate he has more of a right to access election records than a "member of the general public."
The writ says the McDaniel camp gave Lee a three-day notice on Thursday, July 3 before examination of election boxes.
On July 7-8, Spencer Harrell and Larry Fulton, both from the Jackson area and representing McDaniel, canvassed ballots and poll books and claimed that there were irregularities.
Jarrod Solomon also appeared on behalf of the Cochran campaign.
"Time is of the essence in election proceedings," McDaniel said requesting the emergency hearing.
County Attorney Wade White on Monday submitted Lee's response along with a motion to dismiss.
Neshoba County is also contending that Lee was not properly served because she was out of town for a clerk's convention and the paperwork was left on the counter at her office.
Detailed in the county's response is that Lee received a written request on behalf of McDaniel to "conduct a ballot box examination and poll book review."
Harrell and Fulton requested a breakdown of the number of voters in each voting precinct for the county.
Lee said this is not information that is "naturally covered" during the ballot box canvassing, but provided this information for them anyway.
"Mr. Fulton and Mr. Harrell left with the information they requested and after viewing all the documents they requested to view," the response said. "All appeared well as all left well."
Lee's response notes that another request to inspect only the poll books was made around the same time as the first request.
Despite the request, nobody new from the McDaniel camp arrived for the second examination, and Lee said she informed Harrell and Fulton of this.
In Neshoba County, Cochran, who had 54 percent of the vote, was certified as the winner for the county. McDaniel garnished 46 percent of the vote.
Nearly 22.4 percent of the county's 16,425 registered voters cast ballots on June 24. This number was up 1.5 percent from the June 3 primary.
Cochran is scheduled to face former Congressman and Democratic nominee Travis Childers for a seventh term on the Nov. 4 general election.
The Cochran camp has also had representatives in all 82 counties reviewing ballots. They are still reviewing boxes in three counties.
So far, the Cochran campaign has reported finding only 909 questionable votes statewide, including five votes in Neshoba County.
The Cochran campaign said in a release on Tuesday: "An extensive review of 79 out of 82 counties has confirmed what we already knew: Senator Cochran clearly won the election. While there have been baseless accusations, the county-by-county review found very few votes that could be questioned and were due to routine clerical errors found in any election.
"It is time for Republicans to come together and focus on making sure this seat is part of a new Senate majority."
Neshoba County Election Commissioner Harold Richardson, who along with Lee monitored the canvassing, said last week the McDaniel findings were not what he would call voting irregularities.
"They haven't told us what the irregularities are. They don't know what they are and we don't know what they are," Richardson said last week citing "a large stack of papers" with irregularities.