The Election Lawsuit That Got Away

As you may have seen in on our online edition, Chancellor Arnold Goldin has dismissed the challenge of the Aug. 5 election results by 10 candidates who lost in that set of county elections.

We’ll be talking more about this on Friday’s edition of “Behind The Headlines” on WKNO.

We’ve also fixed a quote in the online version of the story in Friday’s edition of The Daily News that we didn’t catch for the print edition.

It’s a quote from Bill Giannini, Shelby County Election Commission chairman who said the commission will do a more thorough job of training employees and “certainly a higher level of training.” Training” is the correct word instead of “employees” which was in the original version. Big difference.

Giannini said some lessons will be applied as a result of the court case and the issues it raised. He points out that the Election Commission hires 1,500 temporary workers to run the elections from the early voting sites to over 200 election day precincts.

Some have been doing this for a long time. Some have probably been doing the job too long based on their move to turn away voters at the first sign of a dispute over who had already voted and who had not. It’s a problem voters have encountered before where long time polling officials run their polls by their own rules regardless of changes in laws and technology. The lawsuit just may call more attention to the problem and has the potential to signal a sea change in that regard.

It’s not easy getting citizens involved in the election day mechanics. No one makes anything close to a living just off working elections. It’s not intended as a full time job.

Here are a few other points.

This is the same outcome as the court challenge four years ago involving the same election cycle and the same set of offices.

The problems cited then were different. This challenge of the election results was much more technical. It got more into the mechanics of how our elections are conducted. The 2006 court challenge was built to a large degree on anecdotal information from voters, candidates and campaign workers who claimed voting totals suddenly shifted toward the end of the election night vote count.

The earlier challenge was easier to dismiss, in part, because that is the nature of how vote totals come in after the polls close. It is not a flow of numbers that build gradually. The vote totals jump in the blink of an eye and in that blink leads can and do change in races.

The challenge dismissed by Goldin this week came with its own problems. Those problems were theories that can quickly rum amok with possibilities and motives.

The theories attract legions of citizens who are experts in theories from other elections but not necessarily experts with practical or academic experience in running elections.

Goldin ruled earlier this week that two of the three witnesses the plaintiffs considered experts were “sorely lacking” in qualifications.

The third witness, who did testify at the trial, was former Seattle elections superintendent Julie Anne Kempf, who knows a thing or two about election controversies and the underlying issue in the Shelby County election challenge – the human element.

Kempf focused on what happened with the mechanics of the Shelby County election and the confrontations that followed election day as the plaintiffs tried to examine machinery and data records as the commission tried to certify the results.

Kempf lost her job as elections superintendent in Seattle in 2003 over the late mailing of thousands of absentee ballots. The superintendent’s job was an appointed position. But in the aftermath of the controversy, it became an elected position, a change that Kempf campaigned for before running for the position. She lost.

Dansette

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