Poll book lawsuit withdrawn, could be refiled

The Associated PressJuly 8, 2014 

— A voters' rights group seeking the release of voter registration data is dropping its lawsuit in Mississippi's northern federal court district in order to refile it in the southern district.

Texas-based True the Vote, along with 13 Mississippi residents who are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, moved to withdraw the original lawsuit Tuesday.

"Relocating from Oxford to Jackson is a small price to pay for protecting voters' rights in Mississippi," group president Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement Monday.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills, in an order filed Monday, writes that parties to case are mostly in the Jackson area.

"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.

The lawsuit seeks to compel Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and the Mississippi Republican Party to release poll books without removing any information. A voter signs a poll book right before casting a ballot.

They plaintiffs have said they want a federal court order giving them access to the records and prohibiting the defendants from redacting any information such as birth dates in their effort to weed out crossover voters.

The plaintiffs are looking 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.

Mills wrote that crossover voting, though it may violate state law, doesn't appear to break federal law. He also questioned whether the plaintiffs were suing the right people for voting records, indicating that they may need to sue counties, not the state or the state Republican Party.

Hosemann reiterated Tuesday his desire to be dismissed or excluded from any lawsuit.

"The federal court has indicated the case against the state of Mississippi was ill conceived, incoherent, misguided, poorly drafted, filed in the wrong court and probably politically motivated," Hosemann said in a statement. "We are hopeful the state of Mississippi, and its taxpayers who are footing the bill, will quickly be dismissed from this litigation."

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef has said his party also wants out of any lawsuit.

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