JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Texas-based group will not appeal its loss in a lawsuit that sought access to Mississippi voters' birthdates after a disputed Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas filed an order Tuesday dismissing the lawsuit filed by True the Vote and several Mississippi residents.
The dismissal came more than a month after Atlas ruled against the plaintiffs. Atlas said in her Aug. 29 ruling that disclosing voters' birthdates "raises serious concerns" about privacy, particularly if dates were released with full names and addresses.
After a tea party-backed candidate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, lost a June 24 Republican primary runoff to Sen. Thad Cochran, McDaniel supporters searched voting records to look for irregularities that McDaniel could use as evidence to challenge his loss. They said they needed to see birthdates so they could verify identities of different voters with similar names.
Mississippi's top elections official, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, was among those sued by True the Vote, and he said voters' birthdates were not meant to be public record.
"The attempt to acquire voters' birthdates from the circuit clerks and the secretary of state was unwise, expensive, and unnecessary for any election contest," Hosemann said in a statement Thursday.
Atlas is a Texas-based federal judge who was assigned the case after judges in Mississippi's southern federal court district recused themselves. She traveled to Jackson and heard arguments July 25.
"Birthdates, when combined with other identifying information available in voter registration records, can be used to obtain — both legally and improperly — a host of other highly personal information about an individual, particularly in this day of computers with vast searching powers," Atlas wrote Aug. 29.
Certified results show Cochran defeated McDaniel by 7,667 votes in the Republican runoff, three weeks after McDaniel led a three-person primary.
McDaniel filed a lawsuit in state court that sought to overturn Cochran's victory. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, agreeing with Cochran's attorneys that McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to file it. McDaniel argues that state law does not specify a deadline to challenge results of a statewide primary, and he has asked the state Supreme Court to revive his lawsuit. Justices heard arguments Oct. 2, but had not released a decision by Thursday.
State elections officials have already approved a Nov. 4 general-election ballot that lists Cochran as the Republican nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers as the Democratic nominee and Shawn O'Hara as the Reform Party candidate for Senate.