Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fair and square

District 4 recount

John G. Berry chief Judge of the 16th Virginia Judicial Circuit in a special appearance in Goochland Circuit on Friday, December 2 dismissed a motion made by Robert Minnick to reject a recount request made by District 4 incumbent supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

According to election results certified by the county electoral board on November 9, Minnick received 842 votes, Butler 836.

Under Virginia law, because Minnick’s margin was less than half a percent of the total votes cast for both candidates, Butler is entitled to a free recount. The law requires that he file the request with the Circuit Court of the jurisdiction in which the election occurred within ten days of certification of election results.

Brad Marrs, Minnick’s lawyer, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who lost an election by a small margin, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly nor in a timely manner.

Marrs said that Minnick received notice of Butler’s request for a recount on November 28, well beyond the ten day deadline. He also contended that because Butler’s petition for a recount was not attached to the summons form attached to all notice of civil legal actions, it was improperly served and should be disallowed.

The Judge stated that a recount is not quite a civil action.
Marrs said that the issue must be resolved by December 22, the date of supervisor investiture.

Butler, although he is believed to have been urged to retain counsel by a county election official, represented himself.

Butler contended that he mailed a letter requesting a recount to the State Board of Elections, Goochland Circuit Court and Minnick’s home in “due time.” He argued that state law does not specify how the notice is made.
Judge Berry told Butler that a recount petition is served like any other paper used to start a court case. (A recount is conducted by a recount court, in this case,comprised of Judge Berry and two other judges, appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.)

Butler seemed a bit put out by all the fuss. “If I’d a won by six votes, I’d agree to a recount,” he told the judge. “The public needs to know. This was the closest election in Virginia this year.”

Judge Berry concurred stating that court is committed to safeguarding the integrity of the election process in an expedited manner.

A preliminary hearing to determine the details of recount process will be held on December 8 at 1 p.m. The actual recount will take place on December 15 at 1 p.m.

As votes were electronically cast at the polls on November 8 and their tally is unlikely to change. The focus of the recount will be the 91 paper absentee ballots, which are counted by an optical scanner. The recount court will decide if the absentee ballots need to be physically examined during the recount.

A copy of the tally tapes for the electronic voting machines in the possession of county registrar Frances Ragland was transferred to the custody of Lee G. Turner, Goochland’s Clerk of the Court until the recount. The absentee ballots have been in the clerk’s vault since the canvass on November 9.

Minnick and Butler will each designate two election officials and one observer to conduct the recount under supervision of the recount court.
This is a very delicate matter. As new kid on the block Minnick must tread lightly while standing his ground and insisting on proper procedure for the recount to avoid being snookerd by the good old boys. His win at the polls must be well documented and above reproach.

Butler’s actions illustrate all too well the pseudo competence, baseless arrogance and penny wise and pound foolish attitude that characterized Goochland government operations for decades. The recount will show that he did not lose to one of those pesky imports on a technicality.

Butler must have known on election night that he wanted a recount. A proper request for a recount should have been in the hands of the proper parties no later than November 14.

It is curious that the Republican Party seems to have provided Butler with no support legal or otherwise. You’d think that the Republican Party of Virginia would have some sort of legal aid available for its standard bearers who lose by tight margins.

The recount will be held. It will set the record straight and clear the air of any doubt about who won the election.

No comments: