Coleman's Not the Only Appeal of an Election Loss

>> Friday, April 24, 2009

This hasnt made national news but Steve Pappas who was defeated in his attempt to retain his 3rd district supervisor position in california has also filed an appeal from a loss in District court. Pappas has alleged widespread voter fraud on based on technical errors on registration forms from UCSB and Isla Vista precincts. He first filed suit in november and that decision was handed down recently, Pappas lost.

Pappas' case,

In the lead-up to the hearing, Lake and Pappas said the focus of their case would hinge on the so-called three-day rule. The rule deals with ballots collected by a third party during an election drive. Record numbers of UC Santa Barbara students registered on campus in the prior to the election through such drives.

However, election law stipulates that any registration forms collected during such a drive must be turned in to the elections office within three days.

Many of these forms – as many as 9,000, according to Pappas – were handed in after the three-day time limit, and as a result, he argued they should be disqualified.

Pappas has placed a great deal on irregularities on the voter registration cards. Pappas has accused UCSB Campus Democrats of committing fraud by forging signatures.

The Nexus also reviewed a sample of five registration cards collected at a registration drive run by Campus Democrats that Lake alleged demonstrated fraud.

On each card the name of a specific member of the Campus Democrats’ leadership was signed in the section reserved for registration drive workers, and although the name was the same on each card, the signature was dramatically different.

“We plan to bring in a handwriting specialist to determine whether the signatures are by the same individual,” Lake said. “But it doesn’t really take a specialist to see.”

This, Lake said, was just a small sample of the sorts of problems his team found with the cards from registration drives on and around campus.

The drives, organized by Associated Students and other campus groups, resulted in record-setting numbers of first-time voter registrations - more than on any other campus in the country.

“How did they get so many people to register all at once?” Lake said. “Maybe they have some special magic out there at UCSB that caused them to get more registered voters than anywhere else. Or maybe they just found a new way to clone people,” he said, referring to the dubious signatures on the Campus Democrats’ cards.

The problem for Pappas is that the judge in the district court case was uninterested in his case based on the three day rule. In fact Judge William McLafferty shut down any argument based on the three day rule.

McLafferty indicated he wouldn’t hear evidence attempting to invalidate voter registration cards collected by a third party and not submitted to the elections office within a three-day deadline. He also said he wouldn’t consider evidence that any third-party registration gatherers might have failed to appropriately fill out a required box. The point, he said, wasn’t to exclude voters on a technicality, especially when it wasn’t the voters' fault to begin with. The decision instantly eliminated thousands of the ballots from Pappas's challenge.

this decision is really going to be the crux of Pappas' appeal. He is going to argue that the court erred as a matter of law in refusing to admit evidence that these registrations were invalid because they werent turned in according to the statutory procedure. im not sure what the standard of review is but i would bet its abuse of discretion. The odds are not at all in Pappas' favor.

The main problem is that even if the cards were not turned in exactly on time or some box wasnt checked the court is going to be very weary of throwing out 9,000 ballots. As judge McLafferty made clear the purpose of the act is to increase voting and not to stand as a pretext for disenfranchising students or other voters. This is an example where a strict textualist might be willing to throw the votes out but someone who appreciates the intention and policy behind the law would not. He said during trial,

"People want the right to vote," said the judge, who throughout the proceedings never seemed to express much confidence in Lake’s contentions. "We have to do everything we can to make sure their vote counts."

If the standard really is abuse of discretion is see little chance of the court overturning the ruling and ordering a new trial. Nor should there be a new trial. McLafferty was correct not to throw out the votes of the UCSB students based on technicalities. As McLafferty said during trial,

“You’re not making your case, I’m just not buying it,” McLafferty told Pappas’ attorney, Jeffrey Lake in court. “If you have any evidence of any fraud I think I should hear about it, but I haven’t heard it.”


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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