Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Call a Padre! San Diego's GOP Mayor Throws Democracy a Curve

And you thought there were unanswered questions in Ohio.

In San Diego, the mayoral race remains in flux after an unofficial review of disputed ballots showed that the Democrat, Councilwoman Donna Frye, would have beaten incumbent Republican Dick Murphy if all the votes had been counted.

One problem: the San Diego City Council certified the vote count on Dec. 7, and Murphy, not wasting any time, was sworn in two days later.

But a review begun yesterday, requested by five news organizations and a lawyer representing two Frye voters, found at least 4,854 uncounted votes for Frye, more than enough to erase Murphy's 2,108-vote victory. More than 450,000 votes were cast.

"Dick Murphy is now the phony mayor," Scott Barnett, former executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and a Republican, told the Los Angeles Times. "He already had only about a third of the vote; now there's an incredible cloud over him."

At issue is determining the intention of thousands of ballots in which a voter wrote in Frye's name but did not fill in the small oval next to the write-in line. Election officials had declined to count those ballots, and a Superior Court judge last month upheld their decision, saying that state election law required that ovals be filled in for a write-in to count.

But Frye alleged this morning on the Air America radio show Unfiltered that thousands of votes for Murphy and a third candidate, Republican Ron Roberts, were counted even though voters X-ed or checked the small oval, rather than filling it in. Technically, a strict election law interpretation would suggest those votes should not be counted, either. If that interpretation were in fact followed, Frye asserts she would win anyway.


Murphy, as would be expected, stuck to his guns. "I have no objection to the examination of the ballots, but the bottom line is: Illegal votes don't count," he said at a news conference yesterday at his City Hall office.

"To me it's clear. I'm the legitimate mayor. The state Legislature passed the law that says you must fill in the oval," he added, failing to recognize Frye's charge of the improperly filled in ovals for Muprhy and Roberts. "That's the way it works in America. We are a society that follows the rule of law."

He added that he is not convinced that voters who wrote Frye's name but did not fill in the oval intended to vote for her. "I'm not sure we'll ever know what the intent of those voters were," he said.

According to the Times, election law experts say the law is far less clear. The question of whether to count the empty-oval ballots pits two principles of election law against each other: honoring the intent of voters versus requiring compliance with rules."The question is how much knowledge of the process can you require on the part of voters?" said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"Let's face it, this is not a literacy test," Frye told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "This is an expression of the intention of the voter. I feel frustrated, and I feel that a lot of people have been disenfranchised on a technicality."

Frye told the Union-Tribune yesterday that she is undecided what action, if any, to take. She has 30 days from the date of the election's certification, or Jan. 7, to file a legal challenge.

Also, City Attorney Michael Aguirre announced yesterday that his office will issue an opinion on the bubble issue; a spokeswoman told the Union-Tribune it may come by next week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another stupid set of rules by a locality. More reason for federalizing election processes. One type of ballot with one set of instructions. Everyone who votes must be charged with following those directions/instructions. And if they have questions, they should be asked in advance of election day (ballot should be made available to everyone prior to voting). Then it is either a valid vote or not and not a ridiculous guessing game on a state by state level. Rules are necessary-so is following them. They need to be clear in advance and not changed afterwards. That is the only fair and reasonable method.

This particular situation seems like a travesty.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the type of capabilities at our disposal in the new web-age, these all-too-common types of voting "irregularities" described above should not ever be allowed to happen. We cannot obviously rely on the courts to be impartial and fair.
We have technological and web capabilities of astounding magnitude. You can take out cash from your bank account from any street corner ATM. You can go online to buy something and have your credit card approved within seconds. You can get door-door driving directions to most anywhere in the country on Mapquest.
Yet, we cannot have a system that performs a simple function like objectively and securely registering a person's vote with providing an adequate paper record of the "transaction."
What an opportunity existed for Diebold. They blew it! Worthless garbage machines that can be easilly manipulated within minutes and leave no paper trail! If it's Republican-backing that has allowed this inept company to sustain, then throw the bums out. Find a competitor that can do the job!
There's likewise no need in this modern-age to continue to contend with optical scanning machines and similar error-prone touchy-feely gadgetry. The old slip a paper vote into a cardboard show box is more reliable.
This country can find $170 billion plus to spend on a frivolous War but cannot come up with a few hundred million dollars to revolutionize the entire voting process on a national scale.
We had four years since Florida. There's no excuse for our inept politicians and courts.

11:50 AM  

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