Those changes could clarify rules that generated controversy earlier this year, when state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) narrowly outpaced Sen. Thad Cochran (R) in the June 3 primary before narrowly losing to Cochran in the June 24 runoff. McDaniel challenged the results of that runoff, alleging that thousands of ineligible voters cast ballots that helped Cochran eke out the win.
His lawsuit remains under consideration by a state court.
The group met for the first time Wednesday to consider the state’s primary system, which is one of the most complex in the country. Voters do not register by party, and state law says voters should only vote in a party primary if they intend to support that party’s nominee later. Federal courts have ruled there is no way to actually enforce it.
John Fitch, an attorney in Hosemann’s office, told panelists the state’s primary system could be called “open, semi-closed … or facially closed,” the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.
Closed primaries only allow voters registered with a certain party to cast a ballot. Semi-closed primaries allow unaffiliated voters to choose a party on the day of the primary election. And open primaries allow any voter, whether affiliated or not, to choose any party’s ballot.
The panel will make recommendations to the state legislature, which would have to take up and pass any changes when it meets for session next year. But there is some skepticism about changing election rules: Both the chairmen of the state Democratic and Republican Parties attended the panel’s first meeting on Wednesday, and both were noncommittal about what, if any, changes they would support.
Notably absent from Wednesday’s meeting: The chairman of the state Senate’s Elections Committee, Chris McDaniel.