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Oxford judge wants to send poll books lawsuit to Jackson

law_webJACKSON — A federal judge in Oxford asked yesterday why he shouldn’t send a lawsuit about access to poll books to Jackson.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills, in an order filed yesterday, wrote that it appears the defendants and the witnesses in a case filed by 13 Mississippi residents and True the Vote, a Texas group, are located in Mississippi’s southern federal court district. The plaintiffs filed suit July 1 in the northern district.

Mills is giving the plaintiffs until July 18 to show why the lawsuit shouldn’t be moved. L. Eades Hogue, a lawyer for those suing, declined comment. He said yesterday that he’s still examining Mills’ order.

The lawsuit seeks to compel Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and the Mississippi Republican Party to release poll books without redacting voters’ birthdates. Plaintiffs said they want to look for people marked as voting in the June 3 Democratic primary and the June 24 Republican runoff. Mississippi voters don’t register by party, but state law bans people from voting in one party’s primary and the other party’s runoff in the same election cycle.

Hosemann has said he should be dismissed from the suit because his office doesn’t possess poll books or have the authority to publicly release them. Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the party would also seek to be dismissed.

In an eight-page order, Mills wrote “it is far from clear” that those who brought the suit have standing to sue, especially in the northern district, considering the allegations focus on officials and counties in the southern district.

“It appears that the decision to file suit in Oxford may have been based upon political calculations, the exact nature of which are unclear to this court,” Mills wrote.

He also said that crossover voting, while it might be illegal under state law, is not barred by federal law. He cited a 2004 case from Georgia’s DeKalb County where Democrats alleged that Republicans tried to orchestrate crossover voting in a Democratic primary.

“From the perspective of federal law, however, any such Democratic voters were, arguably, simply U.S. citizens and registered voters expressing their opinions in an election,” Mills wrote.

Mills wrote that the suit’s claims that Mississippi was breaking the federal National Voter Registration Act by hindering their access to information in voting rolls might have a better chance of success. However, he said a 2013 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a state can’t be sued for voting records that are actually held by counties. Mills said that those suing might have to persuade the entire 5th Circuit to overturn the 2013 decision, which he said was unlikely before time runs out.

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