Scandal Sheet

Experts say challenge in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race will fail

This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.

According to a pair of experts, state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s challenge of the results of the the U.S. Senate race has little chance of success.

Six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran won the heavily contentious senate race by more than 7,600 votes in the GOP primary runoff June 24. Tea party favorite McDaniel won the initial primary June 3 by 1,418 votes to force the runoff, but couldn’t break the 50-percent mark needed for victory.

The McDaniel campaign finally released, after weeks of promises, a report of all the alleged “illegal” votes for Cochran. While the numbers detailed — 3,500 illegal crossover votes in the GOP runoff from people who voted in the Democratic primary, 9,500 votes called by the campaign “irregular” and 2,500 allegedly improper absentee ballots — weren’t as massive as the McDaniel campaign claimed, the biggest problem with the challenge isn’t the numbers.

It’s what the McDaniel campaign is asking of the Mississippi Republican Party.

According to the challenge, McDaniel wants Cochran’s name removed from the November ballot and replaced with McDaniel’s, because it represents “the true will of Republican electors.”

There’s no mention of a new election.

University of California-Irvine political science professor and election law expert Rick Hasen said on his blog that not calling for a new election is one of the primary reasons the challenge will fail.

“Surely any election lawyer with some experience who would say that McDaniel will be declared the winner with this dossier is smoking something which I believe is still illegal in the state of Mississippi,” Hasen said on his blog. “Finally, I think it is clear that McDaniel should become a national member of the Fraudulent Fraud Squad. His website today still accuses Democrats of ‘stealing’ the election.

“It is a serious allegation, but one not backed by the evidence. Such charges are pernicious when they are not backed by proof. For weeks McDaniel promised that proof and has not delivered.”

One of the legal tent poles underpinning McDaniel’s challenge is also on shaky ground. The campaign alleges the runoff results were affected by “Democratic and illegal votes.” A state law that prevents voters from casting ballots in a primary unless they intend to support “the nominations made in the primary in which he participates” is considered largely unenforceable. The only way a voter’s intentions in the general election could be surmised would be via an open declaration to poll workers.

According to Jackson-based political blog Jackson Jambalaya, state GOP chairman Joe Nosef told the McDaniel campaign in a letter the challenge will have to be addressed by a court, not by the state GOP committee.

If the challenge fails, what are the prospects for McDaniel’s future in Mississippi?

Kenneth Townsend, a political science professor at Millsaps College in Jackson, said that future might be in doubt. The two-term state senator has said repeatedly he’s willing to take his challenge to its conclusion, no matter what the consequences.

The consequences for what looked like a bright political career could be costly.

“It seems that McDaniel’s prospects for winning his challenge and as well as his long-term viability as an elected official are not looking great,” Townsend said. “I’m sure he’ll have a dedicated base of followers for a while, but a dedicated base of followers is not enough to be elected to any statewide office.”

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