Miss. Code Ann. § 21-15-911 requires that after votes are counted, the voting materials are to be resealed and locked and turned over to the circuit clerk:
…the box shall forthwith [be] resealed and delivered to the circuit clerk, who shall safely keep and secure the same against any tampering therewith. At any time within twelve (12) days after the [vote counting and tabulating] … any candidate or his representative…. shall have the right of full examination of said box and its contents upon three days notice… which examination shall be conducted in the precense of the circuit clerk or his deputy who shall be charged with the duty to see that none of the contents of the box are removed from the presence of the clerk or in any way tampered with. Upon completion of said examination the box shall be sealed with all its contents as theretofore. And if any contest or complaint before the court shall arise over said box, it shall be kept intact and sealed until the court hearing…
In election contests where I have been involved, I have understood that the opportunity for campaigns to look at the boxes is during the period provided for that by statute. I have seen copying machines moved to the courtroom for that process.
That is why I was surprised when I heard that the folks McDaniel had in Lafayette County didn’t make any copies when examining the boxes here.
I am even more surprised to read in the Clarion Ledger that the McDaniel campaign has subpoened materials locked in the ballot boxes from forty-six counties. The subpoenas were issued on Monday, August 24th, faxed (at least to Lafayette County) on August 25th, and demand the documents be delivered in Jones County on August 29th. That seems a pretty unreasonable response time for this sort of demand.
Further, I have no doubt that the statute mandatorily requires that after the 12 day examination period, those boxes be sealed until brought to court for the actual hearing (on September 16th), and would read it to also require that they be in the custody of the circuit clerk until then. According to the Clarion Ledger, the Circuit Clerk of Hinds County is actually contemplating breaking the seals:
“There is no way we can go through 118 precinct boxes in two days to check to see if they contain absentee ballots,” Dunn said.
The subpoena seeks a lot more than absentee ballots. The Circuit Clerk of Lafayette County has taken the more judicious step of seeking the advice of the county’s attorney.
You can view the Lafayette County subpoena at the Clarion Ledger link.