Monday, February 2, 2009

Judge Doesn't Buy Latest Ballot Battle

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2009 at 3:58 PM

If you hoped the legal proceedings that brought the Pima County Democrats and Libertarians into court on Jan. 14 would bring relief for those who continue to question the results of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election ... well, you'll need to look elsewhere, at least for now. 

Judge Charles Harrington released his ruling on the claim filed by the Democratic and Libertarian parties asking for the judge to take control of the ballots. It's a no-go for Harrington, who says the argument was an attempt to contest an election--and it is too late.

During the hearing, the Democratic and Libertarian parties told the judge they weren't asking for a criminal investigation. They told him their claim wasn't an election challenge and that he had the legal authority to take control of the ballots in an effort to finally lay to rest any belief that the RTA was rigged or just fine an' dandy. 

Pima County's attorney argued it was too late for the courts to intervene, saying that Harrington had to follow the law, and in Arizona, that means that elections must be contested within five days of the canvas. Harrington agreed. 

Pima Democratic Party attorney Bill Risner is expected to file a motion to reconsider--which is similar to what he did during the first-election integrity hearing in front of Judge Michael Miller, during which the party sought the electronic database files. At first, Miller only gave the party one file before relenting and saying the county should release other election databases.

The Pima County Republican Party, which hired an attorney to file along side the county and Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford's attorneys, issued a press release today defining the Democratic Party's claims as "a lawless judicial intrusion by the courts into the election process." 

"As a party that has long been critical of judicial activism, the Pima County Republican Party is pleased to see that the court respects the separation of powers that is so important to our form of government. If there has been unlawful tampering with the ballots or the election results, Attorney General Goddard or County Attorney LaWall can--and should--conduct a proper investigation." 

Where current investigations stand remains unclear. During this last hearing, even Risner told Harrington that Goddard's office refuses to talk to him or his client, or discuss claims that the RTA election was rigged. And Goddard has publicly told election-integrity activists that a court order would be needed in order for any ballots to be recounted. 

That won't happen on Harrington's watch, unless Risner's motion to reconsider is successful. 

In a press release from election integrity activist John Brakey of AUDIT-AZ, he questioned Harrington's ruling and asked whether the current legal system can uphold fair elections.

"In this case, the judge is saying that the state law limiting challenges to a five-day post-election window bars reforms even in a situation where fraud is obvious (or in the case of this motion, assumed as fact). One fact is clear. Contrary to the state's constitutional mandate, the legal structure isn't adequate to ensure fair elections. When laws conflict with constitutional mandates, it is the court's duty to override those laws." 

It's kind of like when Risner was warning Harrington during the Jan. 14 hearing that the courts could no longer wash its hands of election integrity matters--something the judge didn’t appreciate.

"That, however, is precisely what the court did," Brakey wrote in his press release. "We at AUDIT-AZ herby metaphorically gift Judge Harrington with a huge stack of hand soap." 

Well, if soap is what it will take, then perhaps Harrington will have a change of heart like Miller did last year, when he decided no security risk existed and ordered Pima Couty to release the remaining electronic data base files going back to 1998. 

Yep, the battle for the ballots continues.

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