In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Mississippi Tea Party Freaks Out About Dems Destroying 'Voter Integrity' In Runoff

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AP Photo / George Clark

Since the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Mississippi went to a runoff, Cochran's campaign has begun courting both African American voters and Democrats to help the incumbent senator make it through the incredibly tight race.

The McDaniel campaign, and McDaniel's supporters, in response have begun wailing warnings of voter fraud. The Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots, three of the most well-funded and prominent outside conservative groups, have started a "voter integrity project" to send election observers to parts of Mississippi where Cochran has been recruiting Democrats. As election law expert Rick Hasen explained, the goal seems to really be to discourage Democrats from voting in the election for Cochran.

McDaniel's campaign too is getting in on the action. A Facebook post by the campaign highlighted a flyer passed around by Jerome Wyatt, of the Jones County Board of Supervisors, urging Democrats to vote for Cochran. The flyer read:

Democrats, who did not vote June 3, CAN "CROSSOVER." THAD COCHRAN is the BEST CANDIDATE! He has GREAT SENIORITY ADVANTAGE on the Appropriations Committee. HE IS A MODERATE REPUBLICAN--who will benefit ALL MISSISSIPPIANS!!!

Therefore, as Democrats, who DID NOT vote June 3, go to the polls June 24 and VOTE YOUR BEST INTERESTS. VOTE COCHRAN!!!

Jones County went heavily for McDaniel in the June 3 election. Wyatt, a Cochran supporter, told TPM on Monday that he had been passing out the flyer to all voters in the area.


A flyer passed out by Jerome Wyatt, a member of the Jones County Board of Supervisors in support of Sen. Thad Cochran.

"Thad Cochran and his team should be ashamed of themselves," the caption for the McDaniel campaign's photo of the flyer said. "They have abandoned conservatives by having letters sent out like this all over the state."

The Tea Party Patriots on Sunday sent out an email to supporters linking to a Breitbart story about mounting "questions" about the Cochran campaign's efforts to attract Democratic voters.

"The GOP has lost their collective mind," the email read. "At a time when the GOP should be focusing and spending resources on taking back the Senate and beating Democrats, they are now courting Democrats to beat a Republican in the Mississippi U.S Senate primary." Breitbart has also noted that a former Department of Justice attorney, J. Christian Adams (retained by the pro-McDaniel outside groups to help "ensure a free and fair election"), argues that it is illegal for Democrats to vote for a Republican in the runoff and then vote for a Democrat in the general election. That argument ignores that the ruling banning Democrats from Republican primaries was successfully overturned on appeal.

"The MS Tea Party has communicated with Governor Phil Bryant and Secretary Delbert Hoesmann with strong concerns for the integrity of the upcoming Republican primary run-off between Senator Thad Cochran and State Senator Chris McDaniel," a post on tea party activist Laura Van Overschelde's Facebook said. Overschelde is a member of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, a close and early supporter of McDaniel's candidacy. "Our main concern is to maintain fair and legal election process that protects voter integrity. [sic] And we are seeking affirmation from our elected public officials whose interest should be the same."

Overshelde's post went on to speculate that the Department of Justice is trying to take over the electoral process of the runoff. It continued:

As we have seen already, there are many activities that target specific liberal voters which would not normally participate in Republican primaries by Hinds County GOP Chairman Pete Perry. Those activities appear to subvert or misuse the public trust. And there is significant objection by Ricky Cole who represents Democrats in this State that substantiates that observation.

Further, we believe that such activities jeopardize our recent victories in "States rights" that are Constitutionally assigned to us in our State elections. Specifically we have seen Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court. The people of Mississippi participated overwhelmingly to succeed in getting Voter ID on our ballot through the petition process, successfully passed by the Legislature, signed into law by the Governor and approved by the U.S. Dept. of Justice. In these highly unusual times, there is ample reason to believe that the DOJ is looking for any reason to takeover our electoral process. If there are any irregularities, we believe the DOJ would gladly step in to take our State laws, review them and even rewrite them to their own interests.

Democrats aren't exactly united behind Cochran, though. National Democrats argue that if McDaniel does win the runoff (and recent polling has shown him ahead of Cochran) that creates an opening for former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS), the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, to beat McDaniel in the general election. After news broke last week that a Democratic operative was working to boost Cochran, Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole told TPM that helping Cochran doesn't actually help Democrats. "I don't see how it serves our cause of helping to provide the people of Mississippi with a clear-cut choice. It muddies the water," Cole told TPM.

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.