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Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel announced at a news conference on Monday that he is formally challenging his runoff loss to Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran won the Mississippi Republican primary runoff in June by 7,667 votes. But McDaniel’s lawyer, Mitch Tyner, argues that 15,000 votes are invalid.

Cochran triumphed largely because he was able to drum up Democratic support, especially from black voters in the state. Mississippi has an open primary, meaning that Democrats who didn’t vote in their party’s primary could participate in the Republican runoff. But McDaniel and other conservative groups have claimed that many Democratic votes should not have been allowed, and that McDaniel is the real winner.

The formal challenge states that election officials “did not maintain proper control of the election process,” and that too many people were allowed to vote via absentee ballot.

Tyner said that the campaign identified 3,500 voters who cast ballots in both primaries (which on its own wouldn’t be enough to invalidate the runoff), and over 10,000 votes that should be invalidated (9,500 questionable votes, and 2,275 improper absentee ballots).

One of those votes belongs to Cochran’s spokesman, Jordan Russell. McDaniel’s challenge states that Russell’s vote is being questioned because “there was no reason given for voting absentee.”

In the news conference, Tyner said that McDaniel doesn’t want another election; he just wants the state Republican executive committee to declare him the winner. McDaniel’s team wants the committee to hold a public hearing on the issue on August 12.

The formal challenge claims that Cochran’s team bought votes, despite a lack of evidence. It also argues that Democrats who plan to vote Democratic in the general election cannot vote in the Republican primary, citing a Mississippi state provision, and that Republicans “suffered a constitutional injury” in the runoff because they have a right to not be associated with Democrats.

Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen is skeptical. As he wrote, before the runoff the provision was widely viewed as “unenforceable,” as there is no way to prove whom a primary voter is thinking of voting for in the general election. “Neither the party nor the court will count [the Democratic votes] as fraud,” he predicted.

McDaniel’s campaign has also made it clear that he specifically wants to question the black votes that went to Cochran. The official press release that his team sent out stated, “Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff and made up the difference with Democrat votes.” But the original press release, obtained by The Daily Caller, had said “black Democrat” instead of just “Democrat.”

McDaniel’s challenge also suggests that the committee entirely discount the votes from Hinds County, which is 69 percent black, as their regression shows that McDaniel would have won by 25,000 votes without Democratic participation in the county.

The challenge concludes, “The June 24 election was a product of Democrat and unlawful votes. It does not reflect the will of the qualified Republican electors of Mississippi.”

According to Hasen, McDaniel’s odds of being declared the winner are almost nonexistent.

“There is nothing here that meets the standard to show enough fraud in the election to require it to be overturned,” he writes. “At most this shows that the elections were not administered competently in some jurisdictions.”

This isn’t just a local dispute. The Senate Conservatives Fund, of which former Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is now president, is committed to helping McDaniel challenge Cochran.

“When you look at what they did — the Establishment did — to try to hold onto their power, I mean, they literally adopted Democrat — worst Democrat — tactics,” he told The Washington Examiner. “The race-baiting, the pimping-out welfare and et cetera is what Thad Cochran was doing and the super PAC was doing.”

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.