Wednesday, October 03, 2007

11th district gets it right - each appeals step needs new signatures

(Credit to SkepticalObservor for covering this earlier).
I wasn't going to comment on this. It's not that interesting, as it's inside politics, and since I don't read BVBL anymore (because he's afraid to let me) I was unaware that anybody was in disagreement with the unanimous decision of the 11th district.

But apparently there are a few people like Greg who can't read a plan, don't have a clue about what requirements are, can't believe anybody would actually enforce rules, and are certain that they should be listened to anyway.

Specifically, the RPV plan (that's the rules for the Republican Party of Virginia) state in Party Plan, Article X, Section B(1-4).:

1. Any Chairman of an Official Committee or twenty (20) percent of the members of an Official Committee may request a ruling or interpretation of the State Party Plan from the General Counsel. The General Counsel's determination shall be binding unless and until overturned upon appeal, either to the Appeals Committee or directly to the State Central Committee.

2. The Appeals Committee shall consist of the State Chairman, all of the State Vice Chairmen and a General Assembly Committee Member appointed by the Joint Republican Legislative Caucus. The State Chairman shall promptly convene this Committee when necessary, either in person or by telephone, and shall participate in its deliberations and decisions.

3. In the event of an appeal to the Appeals Committee and a concurrence by a majority of that Committee with the Ruling or interpretation of the General Counsel, it may be further appealed to the State Central Committee, whose decision shall be binding in accordance with Article X, Section C.

4. All appeals, under sub-sections 1, 2 and 3 of this section must be made in writing within thirty (30) days after the decision appealed from and the appeal must be accompanied by a petition signed by at least twenty-five (25) Party members (except as provided below) of the respective Unit, Legislative District or Congressional District affected.

When an appeal involves a mass meeting, party canvass or convention, then for purposes of this paragraph the term “Party members” shall mean mass meeting participants in the case of a mass meeting; canvass voters in the case of a party canvass; or delegates in the case of a convention. If fewer than one hundred twenty-five (125) persons voted in such mass meeting, party canvass or convention, then the petition shall be signed by at least twenty percent (20%) of the voters at such mass meeting, party canvass or convention.

There was an appeal from a convention to the 51st district committee, which had 25 signatures from the convention. That appeal was decided.

Then there was an appeal of THAT decision to the 11th district committee. Unfortunately, that appeal was not accompanied by any signatures relevant to the appeal, but instead by the same signatures obtained for the earlier appeal.

I say unfortunate because ANY legal representation would have explained this. We all remember the fun we had when Chapman missed his filing deadline. This is about the same. There's little sympathy here for people who can't follow simple instructions, especially when they are so sure they know what they are doing that they don't take the time to ask what they should do.

After all, Becky Stoeckel wasn't their enemy, and she obviously knew about this as she was part of the unanimous vote. All they had to do is ask here what was needed for a valid appeal. Some of the people complaining now laughed about McQuigg asking Kopko to ensure her petitions and other paperwork were in order -- maybe instead of laughing they should have taken the lesson and done the same.

But I want to move beyond the obvious rule, and ask -- does it make sense? The answer is a resounding yes, for three reasons.

First, as was made clear by an e-mail released by an 11th district attendee, the appeal sent to the 11th district was NOT the same appeal that was sent to the 51st district. The first appeal asked for the convention to be overturned, for votes to be thrown away, and for the loser to be declared the winner. 25 people who signed a petition were signing on to that request, to appeal to the 51st.

The appeal to the 11th district was NOT to overturn the convention. Instead, it was to get the 11th district to fix the record the 51st appeal wouldn't fix, and to "clarify" the rules about overvotes.

Given the entirely different nature and effect of the 2nd appeal, it would be absurd to assume that the 25 people who had signed the first appeal would agree with the 2nd appeal.

Second, in addition to the appeal itself being different, the time and level of appeal were ALSO different. The first appeal was to the 51st district, and made at a time in which it possibly made sense to some people to throw out the results and put a different candidate up for election.

The second appeal was to a different organization, and was much later in the process. In fact, one member of the Lucas team suggests that the team knew it was too late to overturn the election and that was why they changed the appeal. In any case, it's quite possible that some of the 25 people were willing to take a shot at an appeal when there was time to make a difference, but would NOT support an appeal in August asking to overturn the election. Requiring a petition signer to be bound to their signature beyond the appeal they initially supported would be unfair.

But couldn't we just allow them to "withdraw" their signature? Well, interestingly enough, there is NO provision in the party plan for that. Which is another clear sign that new signatures are needed, because if the original signature COULD be used for subsequent appeals you'd need a procedure for withdrawing them. And in fact, the party plan covers this, by requiring the petitioner to re-obtain the signatures. This ensures that every signer has a chance to withdraw their support.

Lastly, the argument carrying over signatures assumes that those who signed were only interested in the outcome, or in supporting the candidate, rather than in the truth. Because there WAS an investigation, a study of the rules, and a decision rendered at the 51st district level. It could well be that those signing the petition would be satisfied by that decision, and would not support an appeal of that decision. Some could have really wanted an investigation just to make sure nothing untoward happened, and be satisfied when the investigation was done.

So, by the rule of law, and by common sense, you must get a new set of signatures to accompany each new appeal. Appealing the decision of the 51st district committee is different from appealing the decision of the convention. New appeal, new signatures. It's simple.

The new appeal itself deserved to be rejected on its merits, and would have been had it been properly filed and supported. It requested an advisory opinion which is not in the perview of the 11th district committee, which has little authority to cast binding decisions on future conventions.

This is not to say we don't need clarification. It's just that an appeal to the 11th district wasn't the proper venue for that. Instead, we need to submit a request to the RPV to add language to the Party Plan to clarify the overvote correction process, to ensure that no candidate ever again tries to throw pout PARTIAL votes in an election to their own benefit. I think it's clear the RPV plan already prevents that, but since some disagree let's write it in bold letters -- we don't throw out valid votes to effect the outcome of an election.

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