Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The party's over

The party’s over

A panel of three judges from the Virginia 16th Circuit, appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court, denied a recount request made by District 4 supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

The ruling followed about two hours of deliberation after a hearing on the matter held in Goochland Circuit Court on December 8. Butler appeared at a special hearing on December 2 without a lawyer but was represented by Darvin Satterwhite at the second hearing.

Butler, who lost the November 8 supervisor election to challenger R. H. “Bob” Minnick by six votes, was entitled to a free recount under state law, but only if that recount was requested according to the law. Recounts are not automatic in close elections.

Minnick’s counsel Brad Marrs, a former member of the House of Delegates, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly or in a timely manner. State law requires that a recount petition for a local election must be filed with the circuit court and served on the other candidate within ten days of the certification of the election, which happened on November 9.

Marrs said that the notice must be served with a summons form attached and contain the total number of votes cast in the subject election and the ballots received by each candidate. Butler’s request, which he mailed, and was subsequently served by the Goochland Circuit Court, reportedly stated only that Minnick had a six vote margin.

Minnick received notification of the recount request on November 28.
Marrs said that Minnick’s motion to dismiss the petition did not question the validity of Butler’s request but rather that the court did not have the power to act on the petition because it was not filed within ten days of certification of the election.

Satterwhite tried mightily to find loopholes in a tightly crafted statute. He contended that a recount differs from a challenge and the judges have the power to extend the filing deadline. The three judge panel rejected his arguments.

According to comments made by Robin Lind secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board at its December 12 meeting, the judges ruled that they had no jurisdiction to overturn the filing deadline specified by state law. Their decision is final and not subject to appeal.

The decision saved the Goochland electoral board the cost of the recount, which would have required reprogramming of the machine used to count absentee ballots.

Minutes of the November 9 meeting of the Goochland Electoral Board, at which election results were certified, reflect that Butler was “advised to seek counsel.”

Given the integrity and competence of Goochland election officials and registrar Frances C. Ragland, it is highly doubtful that a recount would have changed the election results.

Butler lost the election and bungled his attempts at securing a recount.
It’s time to move on.

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