Chris McDaniel, the tea party insurgent challenging his primary runoff loss to incumbent US Senator Thad Cochran, may have waited too long to file his lawsuit. Today Cochran’s lawyers will argue before Judge Hollis McGehee that a 1959 ruling by the state supreme court makes the state’s 20-day limit on election challenges apply to the Senate race, too.
The section of state law on county election challenges says the first step, filing a case with the party’s executive committee, must be done within 20 days of the election. A following section on statewide and district challenges does not contain the deadline language.
But the high court in its 1959 ruling on a Democratic district attorney primary said the code sections were part of a single act passed by the Legislature. It ruled that it would “be senseless” to assume that deadline, aimed to keep general elections on track, would not apply to races for all other offices.
In a demonstration of how disruptive his challenge might be, McDaniel’s attorneys have issued subpoenas demanding election records from more than half of Mississippi’s counties.
Madison County Circuit Clerk Lee Westbrook said she would have to rent a van or hire movers to deliver the material McDaniel is seeking, including poll books and absentee ballots. She said the material won’t fit into her sport utility vehicle.
“I have the materials gathered in one spot waiting for a moving van at the judge’s direction,” Westbrook said in a phone interview. “I don’t know who’s going to pay for a moving van to take it all down south.”
McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said he sent subpoenas Monday to 46 or 47 of the 82 counties — places where he believes widespread irregularities occurred in the June 24 runoff.
It would be much easier to take Tyner seriously if his own name was not included in the list of “irregular” votes that the McDaniel campaign has supposedly uncovered. This is already the weirdest primary race in America this year, and even a judge’s dismissal will probably not end McDaniel’s attempts to retroactively win it.
UPDATE: According to the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, Judge McGehee has heard both sides and plans to issue a ruling tomorrow.