To head Contentious Busby-Bilbray Recount Effort in California's
50th Congressional District
Noted attorney and clean election advocate Paul Lehto was selected as counsel for an upcoming election contest related to the Busby-Bilbray special election in California's 50th Congressional district. The 50th is located in San Diego County with the upscale community of Rancho Santa Fe, CA at its center.
Background on the 50th Cong. Dist. Race. This seat for the U.S. House of Representatives was vacated when long term U.S. Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham was forced to resign after a series of scandals. Cunningham, a former pilot and decorated war veteran, was caught in the midst of a larger scandal involving payoffs in the million dollar range by major defense contractors. He resigned in shame, and is now serving a criminal sentence.
A party primary was held on April 11, 2006 resulting in Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby facing off in the special election for the seat held on June 6, 2006. The campaign was intense and unusually close given the history of the district. Political observers in California note that the district was designed to be Republican in perpetuity.
Despite the strong tilt towards Republican outcomes, the race was highly competitive from the start and drew national attention. Turnout was over 40%, high for a special election. Republican Bilbray was reported to have prevailed by elections officials with 78,341 to Busby's 71,146.
Questions were raised during and immediately after the election by local citizens and election reform advocates, and these problems were covered in depth by election reform advocate and noted blogger Brad Friedman of BradBlog.Com Local advocates and Friedman's in depth reporting uncovered a startling fact. The Registrar of Voters sent the voting machines home on "sleepovers" with election workers days and weeks prior to the election on nothing more than a signature.
As a result of this and many other facts and irregularities, citizens and activists, will file a formal complaint in the San Diego Superior Court. This follows a citizen-voter's request for a hand count under the recount provision of the California Elections Code. In her letter, Jacobson wrote: "Because of the multiplicity of ways to tamper with votes, and Mr. Haas's consequent ignoring of the vulnerabilities and security mitigation requirements, both state and federal certification of the machines were invalidated and rendered null."
Lehto Takes the Case
Paul Lehto was approached over the weekend and accepted the role of counsel in this case. He will work with local counsel. Paul Lehto is a business law and consumer fraud attorney from an Everett, Washington. He is a retired governor of the Washington State Bar Association and was voted "Rising Star" in 2003 and 2004 by Washington State Law and Politics magazine.
In 2004, Lehto was one of the thousands of lawyers monitoring the presidential election. This experience led him to major activity as an election reform advocate. He conducted a highly regarded study on the unusual 2004 election result patterns in Snohomish County Washington, (just north of Seattle). www.votersunite.org/info/SnohomishElectionFraudInvestigation.pdf The study serves as a blueprint model for evaluating election fraud. Although it focuses mostly on one of the closest governor's races in the Nation's history, Steven Freeman, PhD , of the University of Pennsylvania says it represents one of the best natural studies of election irregularities in his book, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? for shedding light on electronic voting as a whole.
Following his observations, the lawyer became the plaintiff in a ground breaking law suit against voting machine manufacturer, Sequoia, which controls about 30% of the U.S. market. Lehto and co-plaintiff John Wells sought to void the purchase contract for the Sequoia electronic voting machines. The approach focused on the illegality of secret vote counting in democracy, and the inconsistency between "secret" (computerized) voting and the conduct of legitimate democratic elections. www.votersunite.org/info/lehtolawsuit.asp
This lawsuit attracted local and national attention and helped create a political issue over electronic voting in the county. The political climate changed, and with public focus also on voting systems because of the election contest in the governor's race, Sequoia ended up losing its touch screen business in Snohomish County when the County Council voted to abandon touch screen voting machines in favor of mail-in balloting similar to Oregon's statewide system. Although the County and Sequoia argue this made the lawsuit moot, the lawsuit continues on appeal, seeking a refund of the county's money.
Lehto is also counsel in a case of major election fraud in Whitley County, Kentucky. Retained by citizens to assist local counsel in late June, 2006 in order to address an array of apparently fraudulent activities on the electronic voting machines, Lehto continues to assist local counsel Lee Gilbert in that ongoing case.
Award winning Tribune Media Syndicate columnist Robert Koehler has featured Lehto