From California to Nevada--Onward to Texas and Beyond?
“This is now not just election nullification, but it’s democracy nullification.” --- Attorney Paul Lehto
By Emily Levy on 9/6/2006, 7:34pm PT  

Guest blogged by Emily Levy

Today on RawStory.com, Miriam Raftery interviews Paul Lehto: Court rules against voter-supervised elections, attorney tells Raw

Lehto ties together recent court cases in California and Nevada, and makes some hypotheses about the future.

First: Judge Yuri Hofmann in San Diego dismissed the CA-50 (Busby/Bilbray race) election challenge a week ago, after receiving a letter [PDF] from Paul Vinovich, counsel to the Committee on House Administration, claiming that only Congress had jurisdiction over California’s election. The letter cited Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members….” Never mind that when Brian Bilbray became a “member,” the election wasn’t yet certified and thousands of votes remained uncounted.

Then: Three days after dismissal of the San Diego case, a judge in Nevada’s District 2 dismissed a challenge to the Republican primary there on the same constitutional grounds. John Gideon’s excellent piece, Opinion: Is The Constitution Going To Be Used Against Democrats In November?, which appeared on The BRAD BLOG over the weekend, ties the two cases together. If you haven’t read it, please do.

There’s more: As previously reported on these pages, Vinovich's letter came after Congress received by fax the preliminary results of the CA-50 race. That fax was sent by Susan Lapsley, Assistant California Secretary of State for Elections. She hasn’t worked for CA SoS Bruce McPherson for very long. What was her previous job? Assistant Secretary of State in Nevada, where her boss was Dean Heller. SoS Heller is running for Congress, and is the candidate who claims to have won the contested race in Nevada. More on Lapsley here.

Connect the Dots: Is Texas Next?

In an interview with Miriam Raftery of Raw Story, attorney Paul Lehto --- lead attorney in the election contest in San Diego --- outlines concerns I brought to his attention last week. In District 22, as Lehto explains,

The Democrat in DeLay’s district was running unopposed because the Republicans did not nominate someone who was eligible at that time. Cngressional [sic] Quarterly presently lists that district as leaning Democratic, so that would be a pickup of a seat for the Democrats.

On Monday, August 28, the judge put on the Internet his tentative decision and there was even an Internet press report. On Tuesday [August 29] the same day as the formalization of Judge Hofmann’s decision to dismiss, the Governor of Texas suddenly announced a special election would take place in Texas to happen as the same day as the general election.

Q: How might Article 1, section 5 arguments be used in that race?

A: There’s one main Republican candidate way ahead of others, the favored candidate the Republicans would be running as a write-in against Lampson, the Democrat running for the full term. So there are two elections, one for a two-month term, one for a two-year term, and Lampson is unopposed for the two-year term except for write-in candidates... This detail is interesting. Initially Lampson was quoted as saying he’s running for the special election too, but then a couple of days later, he changed his mind and said he would not run in the special. But I think strategically, that is a much better decision because if he runs in the special there is a head to head race for Congress and if a Republican wins, they could argue that but for a technicality she would have won the general election too, and they could just choose to swear in the Republican for the short term, but also continue to keep her in office.

Q: How does that tie-in to what happened in the CA-50 case?

A: The tie-in is the way that they keep her is through article I, section 5, the power of the House to say that we have the sole power to judge our elections and we think she was elected… If they have [absolute] power over their members, they could do that.

Now that Lampson has decided not to run in the special election, a Republican will win for sure. There will not be a head to head race. But Republicans could still decide if a Republican gets more votes in special than Lampson does in general, they would still have that argument, a little bit weaker, and they could still do it.

Take this seriously. The GOP is clearly working on a strategy now to keep control of Congress regardless of the outcome of November’s elections.

What can we do about it?

  • Publicize these cases. Make as much noise as you can about them. Not just to your inner circle, but in every way you know how.
  • If Lehto’s clients in San Diego decide to appeal Judge Hofmann’s decision, support them with your dollars and your voice. An announcement about whether or not an appeal will be made should come within 48 hours. You’ll hear about it on The BRAD BLOG. Donate at Velvet Revolution.

  • Write a letter or email to people you know, saying why this is important to you personally, and ask them to donate as well.
  • Pursue election justice before November 7.
  • By the time the polls close, available strategies will disappear. Barriers to contests and recounts have increased around the country. There is no need to wait to see if an election is stolen. We already know that the conditions of U.S. elections guarantee inconclusive outcomes. While we’ve been expected to get used to this idea gradually, it is an outrage! Support challenges to insecure voting systems, such as those launched by VoterAction. Help Project Vote and other groups in their efforts to stop voter disenfranchisement. Research the possibilities for injunctions and other forms of resistance in your state or county. Become a poll-worker and a poll-watcher with Mainstreet Moms.

  • Make sure that you vote, and do the best you can to clear your schedule for as big a period of time as possible before and after the election. There will be a lot to do!
  • And if you have other ideas, post them here. Nonviolent ideas only, please!