August 15, 2014 11:38:47 AM
JACKSON -- A tea party-backed candidate asked a Mississippi court on Thursday to declare him the winner of the June 24 Republican runoff against incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran or order a new election.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel sued Thursday in state court in his own home of Jones County. The Mississippi Supreme Court will appoint a special judge to handle the case. McDaniel faces high hurdles to convince a judge to take either action: it would be unprecedented for a court to order a do-over of a statewide election, and part of his argument in the lawsuit hinges on an unenforceable law.
Certified results of the June 24 runoff show Cochran defeated McDaniel by 7,667 votes. But McDaniel's lawsuit renews his claims that Mississippi GOP officials violated the rights of real Republicans by allowing people to vote who didn't intend to support the Republican nominee in November.
"In combination with Sen. Cochran's intentional solicitation of Democrat voters to violate state law, the permitted unlawful votes produced an outcome that does not express the will of qualified Republican party electors," the lawsuit states.
Primary voters are indeed bound by law to support the party's nominee in the general election, though courts have said that law can't be enforced.
Cochran's campaign has said it's focused on Cochran's bid for re-election in November against Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara.
"As we said last week, we look forward to holding the McDaniel campaign to the burden of proof that the law requires and defending the votes of the majority of Mississippians who elected Senator Cochran as the Republican nominee," Cochran lawyers Phil Abernathy and Mark Garriga said in a statement released by the campaign.
McDaniel first asks that the court throw out the June 24 results from Jackson's Hinds County and "other counties proved to have permitted widespread vote fraud," declaring him the winner by subtracting counties that Cochran won. McDaniel has criticized Cochran for reaching out to black voters who traditionally support Democrats. Turnout increased from the primary to the runoff, and Cochran fared well in many majority-black precincts.
If the court instead orders a new election, McDaniel asked that the state GOP be required to enforce the law about supporting the party's nominee. However, the lawsuit did not say how it could be enforced in a state where voters don't register by party. It says only that false Republicans violate the First Amendment "associational freedom" of true party members.
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