Mississippi Supreme Court Rejects McDaniel's Request for Access to Election Records

Mississippi Supreme Court Rejects McDaniel's Request for Access to Election Records

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request by state Sen. Chris McDaniel to grant him unfettered access to un-redacted election records from the June 24 GOP primary runoff against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).

McDaniel’s team had asked the court to issue a blanket ruling ordering courthouses throughout the state of Mississippi to grant him or his designees access to un-redacted poll books and other information at no cost. McDaniel’s legal team says that, while they have enough evidence–which they are not sharing with the public at this time–for a challenge of the election results, they want to fully examine all of the records in each of Mississippi’s 82 counties before doing so, because they can’t add new evidence into the case after the challenge is filed.

More specifically, what McDaniel was asking the court was to clarify whether poll books apply to election materials as contained under Mississippi law. There is a specific Mississippi code, section 23-15-911, that allows a candidate or his designee to review the contents of ballot boxes after an election. McDaniel wanted the court to rule that the statute applies to poll books–which contain the names and other information about who voted on election day, as recorded by poll workers at the various some-1,200 precincts statewide.

The court denied McDaniel’s emergency petition for writ of mandamus, which would have been a court order that would have allowed him, as his lawyers asked the court, “access to and full examination of all of the original election materials from the June 24, 2014[,] Republican Party primary runoff election, including such poll books and materials necessary to confirm the validity and legality of votes cast in that runoff election.”

While certainly a heavy blow against his effort to launch an official challenge of the results soon, the ruling doesn’t knock McDaniel out.

McDaniel’s attorney Mitch Tyner of the Tyner Law Firm said at a press conference Wednesday in Jackson, MS, that he believes the campaign already has enough evidence for a challenge, despite the efforts by some counties to continue blocking access to such records, where evidence is available.

Tyner promised that soon, when the campaign files its challenge, it will publish all the evidence for the public to see. “We’re going to put it all together in a complete package,” Tyner said. “I was really hoping we’d have it today. Monday, a week ago, I was sure we would. But I wasn’t sure we were going to run into this many problems. We’re going to get that together and at the same time we file a challenge, we’re going to give you a complete copy of it.”

Tyner also told reporters that he’ll be providing a copy of the evidence to federal and state law enforcement officials as well. “We’re not only going to give it to you guys in the media; we’re also going to give a copy of it to the U.S. Attorney, to the Federal Election Commission, and we’re also going to give it to the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi,” Tyner said to cheers from McDaniel supporters at the press conference. 

McDaniel’s in a tough spot now: The longer the campaign waits to publish any evidence it has, the more support he loses from conservative leaders who are waiting for action. But the campaign doesn’t want to give Cochran’s more-well-funded legal team any extra heads-up about the evidence ahead of a challenge.

“Am I going to sit right here and try my case in the media and do a tit-for-tat with the Cochran campaign?” Tyner asked rhetorically at Wednesday’s press conference, which was widely panned by the mainstream media. “‘We found this but it says that.’ I’m not going to do that. We’re going to be mature about this.”