The groups supporting challenger Chris McDaniel think they have the right to question voters in the GOP Senate primary runoff about their voting intentions for November’s general election for Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seat, reports the Times Editorial Blog.
Here is the Times’ report:
Several right-wing groups have banded together to form a “voter integrity project’ in response to the news that Senator Thad Cochran is courting black Democratic voters in his runoff with the Tea partier Chris McDaniel.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, Freedom Works and the Tea Party Patriots, all political action committees, will “deploy observers in areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats,” according to a Times article. Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the Senate Conservative Funds, said these observers would be trained to see “whether the law is being followed.”
Does anything think this “project” will actually encourage voter “integrity” as opposed to voter suppression? Misinformation is already circulating as to the details of the law that voters must follow.
As The Times noted, anyone can vote in a Republican runoff if he or she did not vote in the Democratic primary. Conversely, anyone who did participate in the Democratic primary may not vote in the Republican runoff.
But J. Christian Adams, a former lawyer for the Department of Justice known for pushing a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, told Breitbart, the conservative news site, that the rules are actually much stricter. In an email to the conservative news site he said that “if someone doesn’t intend to support the nominee in November, then that person isn’t allowed to vote in the Republican primary.”
In other words, a voter’s future intentions matter as much as their past actions.
To support Mr. Adams’s position, Breitbart cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper, which appears to indicate that Republican Party representatives may seek to discover whom voters intend to support in the fall, and potentially challenge their right to cast a ballot on those grounds.
The Supreme Court determined in a 2005 case that the First Amendment ‘protects the right of political parties to associate with fellow members and disassociate with non-members,’ Judge Pepper wrote in his opinion. So technically it’s the party’s responsibility—i.e., in this case, state GOP chairman Joe Nosef’s responsibility—to protect GOP voters’ First Amendment rights by working to keep Democrats from voting in the GOP primary runoff.”
The thing is, Breitbart left out a key detail. As Rick Hasen pointed out on his Election Law Blog, the 2007 district court decision “was reversed and remanded” a year later. The upshot is that “poll workers may not challenge a voter, despite that voters past history of voting for Democrats unless the voter comes in and ‘openly declares that he or she does not intend to support the nominees of the party.’”
The plan to send “election observers” will, in itself, sound familiar to anyone who knows the history of voter intimidation in the South. The particular danger here is that even well-intentioned observers, primed for a flood of black Democrats and confused on the details of Mississippi law, will think it’s acceptable or even expected to take aside black voters and pepper them with questions.