In the wake of the June 24 primary runoff election in Mississippi, state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s staff found the numbers in Lafayette County – home of the cabin which incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) has sometimes listed as his primary address – just didn’t add up.
“We decided to check the machine tapes that were printed out of every machine at 7 p.m. when the polls closed,” said Stephen Furney, a McDaniel campaign volunteer who helped in the election review process and signed an affidavit documenting what he saw in Lafayette County.
“The Lafayette County circuit clerk gave us a total for the numbers to show the total number of votes cast. So with the help of the Cochran campaign, we reviewed the box containing those machine tape receipts and began to unravel them by machine number and precinct and go from there,” Furney said.
The machine tape receipts Furney described are a fairly standard process throughout elections in Mississippi. Voters vote on a machine, and when poll workers wrap up for the end of the night, the machines at each precinct print a receipt with the total tally of votes for each candidate.
“After we got through with all of that, we added up the total number of votes that was verified by the machine at every precinct–and the total number of votes that were cast, and what the county reported, was in some instances not reconcilable,” Furney said in a phone interview. “I was there to just report facts. And the facts were [that] according to the machines, there were 1,038 votes less than what the county reported.”
That 1,038 differential may be somewhat accounted for via absentee and affidavit ballots, the total of which, according to McDaniel’s campaign, was 569.
But during his interview with Breitbart News, Furney said he’s unsure if the number of unaccounted increase in votes includes the absentee and affidavit ballots–or not. “They did not provide me a report that those absentee and affidavit ballots were sent through a machine,” Furney said. “They didn’t run them at the precinct at 7 p.m. when the polls closed. So those machine tapes are not going to have the absentee or affidavit ballots on them.”
So, Furney said, there should be a separate receipt for the absentee and affidavit ballots–something that the county authorities haven’t provided to the McDaniel campaign. “They have yet to provide me that,” he said, adding that even if those ballots didn’t go through a machine–meaning they were just hand-counted–“regardless, you’re going to have a recap sheet that’s going to have the total numbers.”
If you give election authorities the absentee and affidavit ballots in that full total, there are just 469 votes that came out of nowhere. If you don’t, it’s more than 1,000.
This instance of votes that appeared from nowhere is hardly the only example of shenanigans in Cochran’s home county, Furney–a local political activist whom the McDaniel campaign had lead the election verification effort in Lafayette County–told Breitbart News.
In his affidavit that is part of McDaniel’s challenge, Furney details how there were 223 absentee ballots that had “irregularities.”
Many of those irregularities include: No reason listed in the application for the voter to have voted absentee as required by Mississippi law, the signatures on the application did not match the signature on the envelope, lack of a date on the applications, signatures in the wrong places, lack of a notary seal, ballots still in the envelopes, and the applications not being marked “accepted” or “rejected.”
One particularly high-profile person who voted absentee but didn’t check any of the boxes providing a reason for doing so–which is technically in contravention of Mississippi code, which has strict absentee voting requirements–is Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell.
Russell voted absentee and provided no reason, something Furney confirmed in his interview with Breitbart News. “I voted absentee in Lafayette County, where I’m registered to vote, the same day Sen. Cochran did,” Russell said of the charge. “The Saturday before the election.”
“This whole thing would be amusing if it wasn’t a serious Senate election, but the level of absurdity here seems to reach new heights every day,” Russell added.
But Furney said that Russell’s application was invalid. “In order for the application to be valid, the application has to be completely filled out along with the envelope and it has to be notarized,” Furney said. “He had everything done except he did not mark any reason as to why he wanted to vote absentee that day. The section was not marked on the reason for voting absentee.”
Furney confirmed that while Russell’s application for absentee ballot wasn’t filled out in accordance with Mississippi law, Sen. Cochran’s was correctly filed. “There was no problem with his,” Furney said of Sen. Cochran’s absentee ballot. “His seemed to be legitimate. It was notarized, the application was filled out completely correctly, and the signatures matched–everything went well with his.”
The chain of custody of election materials in the county was almost non-existent overall, Furney said. The day before the election–when all the materials are collected in one place for distribution out to the polling places around the county–officials are supposed to prepare a “chain of custody log” and use zip-tie seals with specific numbers on them to ensure there is no unapproved access to the election materials in the bags that go to and from the specific polling places. But in this county, in many bags, no such log was kept or created–and the records of who went in or out of the bags from the day before the election until the present day are non-existent–and with many others, the serial numbers didn’t match.
“I couldn’t verify any kind of chain of custody,” Furney said. He went on:
There was one time where the serial number on the bag didn’t match the serial number on their piece of paper. For some reason, they didn’t do that properly. Also, the memory cards from the machines are another piece of material that should be kept in the ballot bags with everything under seal. In actuality, these were in an open container not sealed, and anybody could have went in there and opened the drawer. They’re supposed to be sealed and locked from June 24, that day, and it wasn’t.
Chain of custody is a log that’s kept from the day before the election, from the minute those election materials are put in place and tagged to go out to the precincts; there should be a log kept on who has custody of it–whether it’s the bag carrier, whether it’s the person running these materials to the precinct. That way I know who had it when it went from point A to point B–the signatures, the seals, they did not provide any of that.
In addition to those areas of potential malfeasance, Furney added that there were a series of potential ineligible crossover votes in Lafayette County–meaning voters who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary, then illegally voted in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. Furney said one of the county election commissioners is suspected of potentially illicitly crossing over, but Lafayette County is one of the many counties that wouldn’t provide–at the direction of the county attorney–the evidence necessary to verify there wasn’t any illicit crossover voting.
“Here’s the thing, in order for you to check a true crossover vote, you want to look at the signature books to verify that that person signed in [on June 3 in the Democratic Primary and on June 24 in the GOP primary runoff],” Furney said. He went on:
Because it could be a clerical error, but they did give us access to the June 3 signature books, so therefore I cannot honestly say that these people crossed over or didn’t–but I think there were 253 that were questionable crossovers. Until I can get the signature books and verify that there were people signing in on both of those days, I can’t be sure either way. But they of course denied us access to that. Their county attorney was called in, and he pretty much told us that he wouldn’t allow us access. I explained to him why it was important for us to verify this, and why we needed it, and he understood why we needed it but just wouldn’t provide the documents.
Throughout this whole process, Furney said, Cochran’s staff were also present and accepted everything he’s reporting here as facts that would be reported back.