Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Colemen-Franken Ballot Debate Was Preceded By Torricelli In New Jersey (Updated)

Powerline quotes John Fund on the law regarding whether absentee ballots that were rejected during the regular Minnesota election can be counted during the recount between Norm Coleman and Al Franken:
The problem with adding absentee ballots is state law. According to an advisory opinion issued last week by the office of Democratic state Attorney General Lori Swanson, "Only the ballots cast in the election and the summary statements certified by the election judges may be considered in the recount process." A recount manual prepared this year by the office of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, also a Democrat, makes clear that the canvassing board only supervises "an administrative recount" that is "not to determine if absentee ballots were properly accepted."
The Canvassing Board's role is purely supervisory, seeing that the relevant statutes are followed. Yet in the face of what Minnesota law dictates, Senate leader Harry Reid came out and intoned:
Today's decision by the Minnesota Canvassing Board not to count certain absentee ballots is cause for great concern. [emphasis added]
Concern over counting every vote apparently trumps the law pertaining to rejected ballots. 

Of course, this is not the first time that the laws regarding a Senate race have been ignored in the face of preserving 'the right to vote'.

During the Senate race in New Jersey in 2000:
In the middle of an increasingly competitive race against Republican Doug Forrester, Torricelli decided not to run for reelection after disclosure of illegal contributions to his campaign by David Chang, a businessman connected to North Korea. In a speech, Torricelli stated that despite his leaving public office in a different way than he planned, he was proud of his service. Late in the election season in 2002, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Democratic Party could legally replace Torricelli's name on the ballot with that of former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, ironically a longtime Torricelli nemesis, with whom he had often publicly feuded. New Jersey Republicans had contested the Torricelli-Lautenberg swap on the grounds that the deadline for ballot changes had passed. Some claimed that Torricelli had only made his decision after local polls showed, for the first time, that the scandal had damaged Torricelli's re-election chances beyond repair. [emphasis added]
The claim by NJ Republicans was based on NJ Statute 19:13-20:
In the event of a vacancy, howsoever caused, among candidates nominated at primaries, which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election...
Torricelli dropped out 36 days before the election--past the deadline. Dave Kopel wrote at the time:
While the actions of the governor and his political minions appear to be a brazen campaign to get the New Jersey courts to nullify the state's election statutes, it is not impossible that a New Jersey court might acquiesce. In the spring of 2001, the legislature rewrote the election law in the middle of the primary election, in order to attempt to stop Bret Schundler from winning the nomination, and to allow Bob Franks to be substituted as Schundler's opponent, replacing Donald DiFrancesco. This act was upheld by New Jersey's intermediate court of appeals in Schundler v. Paulsen, 774 A.2d 585 ( N.J. Superior Court, Appellate Division, May 9, 2001). But even there, the court was upholding a statute against a constitutional challenge, rather than deciding to ignore a statute in order to benefit a political party.

It is difficult to see how an honest court could possibly agree to the Democrats' request. [emphasis added]
And yet the court did agree with the Democrats [PDF]--allowing Torricelli to be replaced with Frank Lautenberg:
...the Court having concluded that the central question before it is whether the dual interests of full voter choice and the orderly administration of an election can be effectuated if the relief requested by plaintiffs were to be granted;

And the Court being of the view that [it] is in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system and to submit to the electorate a ballot bearing the names of candidates of both major political parties as well as of all other qualifying parties and groups.

And the Court remaining of the view that the election statutes should be liberally construed to allow the greatest scope for public participation in the electoral process, to allow candidates to get on the ballot, to allow parties to put their candidates on the ballot, and most importantly, to allow the voters a choice on Election Day. [emphasis added]
Apparently then, as now, it is somehow not in the public interest to uphold the law.

Update: Along other lines, J.G. Thayer writes When All Else Fails, Rewrite The Rules, about the attempt to get Governor Blagojevich out of office:
One of the proposed plans, though, might even be worse than the possibility of him remaining in office a little longer. It’s the proposal put forth by the state’s Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, who wants the state’s Supreme Court to declare the governor “unfit” and have him removed from office.

This would be done through a law intended to cover a governor who has become disabled or impaired, and can not or will not remove himself from office. It’s similar in spirit to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, passed after the assassination of President Kennedy, which deals with presidential disability.

The problem here is that, by the intent of the law as passed, Governor Blagojevich is not “disabled.” His predicament is not physical or mental or medical, but political. He is fully capable of carrying out his duties, and is doing so.

Further, there is already a mechanism for removing a sitting governor in Illinois. It’s called “impeachment,” and it is a power reserved to the Legislature, not to the Attorney General (a part of the Executive Branch) with the collusion of the Legislative.
And from there, Thayer goes on to compare that to...Torricelli.

The lesson apparently is: in politics, when the law gets in the way, get rid of it!

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Technorati Tag: and and .

No comments: