True the Vote, the tea party ‘voting integrity’ organization obsessed with determining which voters are “legitimate” or not, dove headlong into Chris McDaniel’s efforts to annul the Mississippi runoff results by filing a federal lawsuit against the Secretary of State and the state Republican Party. But according to the court where they filed in Northern Mississippi, True The Vote (TTV) picked the wrong venue, the wrong defendants and the wrong complaint. (Link to .PDF)
In light of the foregoing, it appears that the plaintiffs who allege nothing more than having had their votes diluted lack standing to sue and that they may have been added to this case solely to give it a deceptively “northern district” appearance. The court’s concerns in this regard are heightened by the fact that the drafter of the complaint frequently seems unaware of the precise nature of the allegations of particular plaintiffs, at times making vague allegations “upon information and belief.” It is unclear to this court why a drafter would find it necessary to state matters “upon information and belief” which should be within the personal knowledge of the plaintiffs. Even assuming that some of the northern district plaintiffs sought records from counties in this district (as the complaint appears to vaguely suggest), the fact remains that those counties are not defendants in this lawsuit.
That brings the court to the fact that, standing issues aside, plaintiffs’ vote dilution claim fails to assert a coherent theory of liability against either of the two defendants in this case. The vote dilution claim is ostensibly based upon the Equal Protection Clause, but the complaint wholly fails to allege facts detailing what role either defendant had in bringing about any double voting which may have occurred in the Republican and Democratic primary elections. The complaint describes, in vague and conclusory terms, how certain plaintiffs “perceived,” from their review of poll books, that certain individuals may have voted in both the Democratic and Republican primary elections. Even assuming that the plaintiffs’ perceptions in this regard are accurate, however, the fact remains that defendants cannot be held liable for acts of double voting by private individuals which it did not cause to occur. Persuasive authority from a different circuit raises additional doubts in this regard.
Having dismissed their case voluntarily without prejudice, TTV are free to refile their lawsuit in the Southern District. But in his Order to Show Cause, Judge Michael Mills doubts they can win — or that it will matter.
This court does note that there is considerable doubt as to whether plaintiffs will have time to seek en banc Fifth Circuit review before the issues in this case become completely moot. Indeed, it appears that the issues in this case may already be well on their way to becoming moot, partly due to plaintiffs’ own failure to act more expeditiously. Plaintiffs did not seek a TRO or other emergency relief, and this court has had no contact from plaintiffs’ counsel requesting any sort of emergency hearing (as is typically the case when parties seek expedited relief). The court’s understanding is that that many of the poll books in question either have been or are in the process of being sent to the State of Mississippi, which would seem to make any relief as to the counties moot, in addition to being barred by Steen. Plaintiffs do seek permanent injunctive relief (applicable even to future election controversies), but there is considerable doubt as to whether any of them have standing to seek such relief, given the requirement that they demonstrate a likelihood that they will suffer future injury. See Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983). It appears to this court that the plaintiffs in this case find themselves at one end of a controversy with little, if any, precedent in Mississippi political history, and it seems unlikely that they will find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
Despite already knowing that their suit was going nowhere fast, TTV sent out another fundraising email yesterday afternoon to ask for monetary support — and delegitimize the primary runoff results they dislike so much.
To be sure, plenty of Chris McDaniel’s supporters are completely serious about pursuing this lost cause to the bitter end. TTV are the same folks who pushed “Hydra,” a bizarre conspiracy theory which holds that every liberal organization in America is secretly organizing to win elections by fraud (link to .PDF), and they are completely serious about that, too. So it really doesn’t matter whether their lawsuit has a snowball’s chance in hell; it only matters that the fundraising and organizing continue for as long as possible.
So who are these people? We’ve been checking them out.
True The Vote’s lawyer
Trey Trainor is Legal Counsel for Texas Right to Life and the Treasurer of Accountability First PAC, a very well-connected committee that works to put extreme conservatives in state offices. His law firm, Houston-based Bierne, Maynard & Parsons, specializes in election law. He is exactly the sort of right wing Catholic attorney to take up a hopeless cause like this one.
True The Vote’s plaintiffs
We have been looking into these folks ever since we read their names in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:
- Donna and Joseph Knezevich are libertarian RV owners; Donna is a past candidate for the State House and founder of Pearl River Patriots
- Elaine Vechorik is an NRA supporter, the Legislative Chair of Mississippi For Liberty, and a correspondent of Watchdog Wire, a project of the right wing Franklin Center
- Roy Nicholson has served on the Board of Directors for Pro-Life Mississippi and the Central Mississippi Tea Party. He made national headlines in 2012 when he reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding of the Affordable Care Act by calling for armed rebellion to throw back “an invasion” and asking God to intervene. Nicholson ran for Alderman this year, and the final entry on his campaign Twitter account refers to the arrest of Mark Mayfield, a fellow board member of the Central MS Tea Party:
I’m with Chris and have his back. I also do not believe Mayfield was involved in picture.
— Roy Nicholson (@RoyforAlderman) May 23, 2014
- Jane Coln blogs at the Mississippi PEP WordPress, which calls itself “a project to educate voters and inspire leaders in our state.” In fact, the blog is directly linked to the McDaniel campaign. Just look at the cached version of PEP Managing Editor Keith Plunkett’s Twitter account from July 3 below; he’s the former Congressional staffer who blamed Mark Mayfield’s suicide on his political opponents and apparently coordinated with Richard Sager, who was arrested along with Mayfield, to fluff-edit McDaniel’s WikiPedia page
- Doris Lee chairs the Marshall County Republican Party, though she received farm subsidies in Hinds County, one of TTV’s disputed balloting precincts, during the 1990s
- Though she belongs to several tea party groups on Facebook, Julie Patrick doesn’t seem to be linked to any campaigns or organizations. Her wall includes several posts about alleged vote fraud in the June 24 primary runoff, including a photograph she took of the Hinds County voter roll book. Her husband Mark is also listed as a plaintiff
- Sybil Tribble is the party chair for Wayne County, a Glenn Beck fan, and an original member of the Hattiesburg Tea Party
- Chad and Jennifer Higdon – no information yet
- David Philley – no information yet
So what is True The Vote trying to accomplish?
They’re seriously trying to overturn the decision of voters two weeks ago in Mississippi. Sure, chances are they won’t succeed, and they must know that, but McDaniel’s loyalists will not care. They still must try, and they can damage Thad Cochran’s credibility out of spite even if they fail. Better yet, TTV figures they can whip their mailing list for donations until all avenues for litigation are exhausted — and then they can wave this bloody shirt forever as an example of why their organization is so important. There is literally no downside to this plan — not one these players recognize, anyway.
Remember, these are culture warriors; they come for the party, but they stay for the jihad. Folks who are still not over Obamacare four years after its passage through Congress will never get past the perceived theft of McDaniel’s victory, either. As I keep saying, these are people who know all about lost causes. If hope should fail, long-term hatred and a new myth of Southern victimization will more than make up for the loss.
But ultimately, ‘Screw This Vote’ is about extirpating butthurt. Yes, these people are incredibly sore losers with red, red bottoms from the spanking their man took, and they mean to keep hollering until somebody soothes their pain.