Could there be yet another election in the Republican Senate primary in Mississippi? More than two weeks after six-term incumbent Thad Cochran won the GOP runoff against Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, campaign workers are still swarming county courthouses in the Magnolia State trying to find evidence to overturn the election. Although Cochran won by 7,667 votes on election night, McDaniel’s campaign alleges that enough votes were improperly cast to call the result into question. McDaniel has hired Mitch Tyner, a prominent Mississippi trial lawyer who was a long-shot Republican candidate for governor in 2003, to lead his legal team. In a press conference this week outside a courthouse in Jackson, McDaniel’s lawyer claimed that there were lots of allegations and reports of voter fraud in the race. At the time, when the margin between the two was only 6,700, Tyner said that the McDaniel campaign didn’t need to find that many illegal votes to force a do-over of the runoff but thought they would find ample evidence.
The illegal votes would have come from voters who cast a ballot in the Democratic primary on June 3 but then participated in the June 24 GOP runoff in violation of state law, he said. Tyner went on to note that correct legal remedy if the runoff was called into question was “a new election.” Yet, as strange as the idea of Mississippi essentially holding a do-ever might seem, it happened just last year.
In Hattiesburg, the fourth largest city in the state, a second mayoral election was held in September 2013. In the initial election, incumbent Mayor Johnny DuPree, a Democrat, held off challenger David Ware, an independent, by thirty-seven votes. Ware went to court claiming a number of irregularities, including issues with hundreds of absentee ballots. Ware sued and after a long and well-publicized trial, a jury seemed to be willing to award him victory by a nine to three vote, the minimum needed for a civil verdict in the trial. However, when asked to give the verdict in public by the presiding judge, one voter recanted. The resulting confusion created chaos and eventually the judge declared a mistrial and simply ordered a new election be held instead. In that election, which was also rife with controversy and featured monitors both from the state and federal government, DuPree won again on a higher turnout by a margin of 202 votes.