Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Poll Worker: Mississippi Election Documents Thrown Away

Phil Harding, a 30-year Air Force veteran and Chris McDaniel supporter who helped run the June 24 primary runoff election in Harrison County, Mississippi, said he witnessed key documents being discarded and that a large volume of absentee ballot envelopes and applications are missing, making them unavailable for review by McDaniel's campaign. 

However, another poll worker involved, a member of a local Harrison County GOP Executive Committee and Cochran supporter Frank Bordeaux, provided a significantly different account of the episode, saying the documents weren't discarded.

Harding's account is included in a lawsuit from election integrity group True The Vote, which has alleged widespread irregularities in the runoff election. “Concerned citizens have been attempting for weeks to gain access to election documents and ensure only legally-cast ballots were counted, but their requests have inexplicably and consistently been denied,” the group's leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, said.

Harding, who rose to become a Colonel before retiring to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, told Breitbart News he saw two Harrison County GOP Executive Committee members—Bonnie Edwards and Mary Bankston—tell a third, Frank Bordeaux, to discard absentee ballot envelopes and applications, which are used to verify the authenticity of such ballots.

However, Harding noted that none of the three appeared to be acting maliciously. “Honestly, I don’t think that they—I don’t get the impression that they were trying to hide things, or that they were trying to get rid of evidence or anything like that,” Harding said.

He also said that, across Harrison County, there are 40 of 60 total precincts from which absentee ballot envelopes and applications remain missing.

On the afternoon of July 1, Harding said that volunteers, including himself, discovered absentee ballot applications and envelopes – required to be kept securely so they can be later reviewed – in unsecured election supply bins. Harding said Bankston told him to throw them in the trash, but he refused, so Bankston told Bordeaux to throw them away instead.

Bordeaux told Breitbart News that’s not even close to how it happened. Bordeaux says he discovered the absentee ballot materials in the bin, then “held them up,” at which point Bankston told him she’d take care of them. “I handed them to the person who was in charge of the room [Bankston],” Bordeaux said when reached by phone Monday evening. “And I have no idea what happened to them after that.”

Bordeaux said that Harding’s account—that Edwards was there in the room and joined Bankston to say those materials could be discarded—is not true, because Edwards was not present. “Bonnie showed up when I was leaving,” he said. “Everything was done, everything was over with.”

As for Harding’s claim that there are 40 precincts from which absentee materials are missing at this time, Bordeaux said he can’t be sure, because that is not information he is privy to from his position.

Reached by phone and asked about Harding's allegations, Edwards said, “I don't know anything about what you're talking about.” Bankston did not respond to phone calls or text messages seeking comment.

The diametrically opposed accounts of Cochran and McDaniel supporters is somewhat typical for what was the most bitter primary election campaign of the cycle.

A final verdict is likely to come in the courts. 

For now, Harding says the incident caused him to lose confidence in the election results. 

“I certainly wouldn’t say I witnessed any fraud or anything first hand, but I think a creative person could definitely take advantage of some of the weaknesses in the system here to do that,” Harding said, adding that he'd like to see another election ordered because of alleged irregularities.

Bordeax disagreed:

I have complete confidence in the election results,” he said. “I don’t think there was widespread anything. I think this is all being blown out of proportion. I’m a young professional in South Mississippi and I have a young family—this has completely disenfranchised me from being involved in any election moving forward, because we go out there and work hard for our particular candidate and for the process and, at the end of the day, I’m sitting here talking to Breitbart. This shouldn’t happen, no offense to Breitbart.

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