San Diego Voters' Lawsuit Changing the Dialog
By Dave Berman
Attorney Paul Lehto was in CA Superior Court for San Diego County on Friday. Lehto is representing voters Barbara Gail Jacobson and Lillian Ritt who have asked judge Yuri Hofman either to order a full hand count of the June 6 election in California's 50th Congressional district, or to throw out the election entirely as invalid. Friday's court session was to argue a defense motion asking the court to find itself without jurisdiction over this matter.
There are a lot of scary things wrong with the idea proposed by the defense. The reputed winner of the election, Brian Bilbray, was sworn into office as a Congressmember while votes were supposedly still being counted, and well before the election was certified by San Diego's Registrar Mikel Haas, another defendant in the case. Bilbray's argument is that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the right to determine eligibility for membership into that body and so this court has no business hearing this case.
Extending the logic of Bilbray's defense motion, as Lehto did before the judge on Friday, one must conclude that the election as a whole, including the act of certifying it after a winner had already been sworn in, is necessarily invalid. Of course we can't yet know how the judge will rule when the matter resumes on Tuesday, but given that the defense is basically arguing that elections are no longer necessary, we have ample basis for confidence in Lehto's response. Most important, though, is how Lehto has changed the dialog.
The plaintiffs have yet to make their case about the conditions under which the election was held. This is where the court will hear about voting machine sleepovers, secret interpreter code, conditional certification and flat-out lawlessness by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. No matter the defense arguments on these issues, they have already reinforced the plaintiffs' claim of an invalid election.
I can't even count how many times Lehto and I have discussed the "no basis for confidence" frame and consequently the conclusion it provides: an invalid election. To start a case with the opposition making your argument must be considered good lawyering. With both sides agreeing the election was invalid, and arguing over the reasons why, Lehto has masterfully re-framed the debate and changed the dialog.
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There are many ways I could have told the story of today's court session. See BradBlog for another angle. I focused on the communication and language arena because it is here that we will make the biggest strides at changing minds. Over the past six years the American public has grown increasingly adept at recognizing propaganda. Those of us working for peaceful revolution must be students of the art. We can inoculate ourselves or grow resistant to the propaganda messages, but we must learn from and adopt the techniques. Many of these will be just as effective at spreading truth.
There are signs we are doing much better at shaping if not controlling the message despite the best efforts of the corporate/government-run media. The recent Zogby poll on attitudes toward secret vote counting is a great example. Lehto, who commissioned the study, took great care in crafting the questions Zogby asked. The result was a 92% super-majority reflecting the most basic view that we already share: no secret vote counting. This number is going to become our magnet, attracting all the people positive about creating change.
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It was a good week for coverage of election issues in Humboldt County. On Friday, Tom Sebourn of KGOE news/talk radio, did this two minute newscast (.mp3) on the CA-50 lawsuit. What passion! Tom frequently reports in-depth on election issues and will be providing WDNC with audio on a regular basis now. Friday's Eureka Reporter had a brief article on the Zogby poll, including quotes from both Lehto and me. And on Wednesday, the Eureka Times-Standard (archive) also covered Zogby, though the article had an error. Again looking to change the dialog, members of the Voter Confidence Committee submitted the following Letter to the Editor of the T-S.
Thank you for publishing (8/23) the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) press release regarding Zogby's survey on election conditions. The study found 92% of Americans believe the public has a right to know and view how votes are counted in our elections. This super-majority exceeds approval ratings for any Senator, Governor or President since WWII; it is higher than the 87% who think oil companies are gouging consumers; and it makes transparency in elections even more popular than Mr. Bush following 9/11. No issue is more politically safe for our County Supervisors to address. Let's publicly hand count the paper ballots and get rid of Diebold's secret vote counting machines.- Advertisement -
The community should also know something about how the survey results became public. The VCC press release was sent Monday as a tip about Zogby's expected announcement on Tuesday. But Zogby delayed until Wednesday, the same day you ran the story. Your story erroneously said the results had already been released on Tuesday. Had the Times-Standard verified our press release, either by requesting the survey data from us or by visiting the Zogby website, likely you would have delayed the story another day and avoided publishing the mistake. This reflects on your credibility. The Times-Standard took our word about an upcoming multi-national corporate announcement. You also print unverified election results provided by the very government whose control of power hinges on these results. The lesson is the same: don't report what you can't prove and haven't independently verified.
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