Jefferson Davis County election commission being sued

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Jefferson Davis  County Election Commission  was added to a federal lawsuit over access to voting records in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel.

The controversy over election returns began immediately after the June 24 Republican primary runoff when McDaniel, who had led Cochran in the three-man first primary, received about 7,000 fewer votes in the runoff.

McDaniel’s campaign criticized Cochran for reaching across party lines and appealing to African-American Democrats for votes. That led to accusations of illegal crossover voting.

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The lawsuit, filed by Texas-based True the Vote, along with 13 Mississippi residents who are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, seeks to compel Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the Mississippi Republican Party, and nine county election commissions to release poll books without removing any information

The plaintiffs say federal law requires authorities to release voting rolls and poll books in the race between McDaniel and Cochran without erasing voters’ personal information. Mississippi authorities say it’s proper to remove birth dates and make requesters pay for removal.

True the Vote refiled its lawsuit against Hosemann and the state Republican Party, adding nine county election commissions a day after withdrawing its original lawsuit from federal court in Oxford.

Spokesperson for True the Vote Logan Churchwell said, “as our refiled complaint states, counties added as defendants to the case were selected due to their respective refusal of True the Vote’s requests for access to election records responsive to Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.”

Circuit Clerk Clint Langley said that last  Monday at 4:50 p.m., two people from True the Vote came to Jefferson Davis County and requested a list of all Republican and Democrat voters who voted, by precinct, in person and absentee.  The request was for both June 3 and June 24 primary elections.  True the Vote requested an electronic duplicate of the poll books.

True the Vote was told that they could be given a redacted paper copy, but not an electronic copy.   True the Vote did not want a redacted copy and claimed federal law allowed them to have information such as birth dates, etc.

An attorney for Delbert Hoseman informed Mr. Langley that the process in this situation was to charge for the copies, give an estimate, redact the dates, then deliver the copies.  True the Vote was not denied records, but were told to come back the following Monday to receive the records.

By law, the Circuit Clerk’s Office has two weeks to fill a public request notice.  According to Langley, True the Vote never put in a “Public Information Request”.

The plaintiffs have said they want a federal court order giving them access to the records and prohibiting the defendants from redacting any information such as birth dates in their effort to weed out crossover voters.

Hosemann reiterated Tuesday his desire to be dismissed or excluded from any lawsuit.

“The federal court has indicated the case against the state of Mississippi was ill conceived, incoherent, misguided, poorly drafted, filed in the wrong court and probably politically motivated,” Hosemann said in a statement. “We are hopeful the state of Mississippi, and its taxpayers who are footing the bill, will quickly be dismissed from this litigation.”

Other county election commissions added to the lawsuit are Copiah, Hinds, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Simpson, and Yazoo.