August 1, 2006 - Lawsuit seeks to void Bilbray-Busby results
Copyright 2006 The San Diego Union-Tribune
The San Diego Union-Tribune
August 1, 2006 Tuesday
SECTION: LOCAL; Pg. B-2
LENGTH: 570 words
HEADLINE: Lawsuit seeks to void Bilbray-Busby results;
Recount demanded in 50th District vote
BYLINE: Philip J. LaVelle, STAFF WRITER
A lawsuit filed yesterday asks a judge to toss out results of the June 6 special election that saw Republican Brian Bilbray defeat Democrat Francine Busby to finish the remaining term of disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
The lawsuit, filed at Superior Court in downtown San Diego by lawyer Paul Lehto of Everett, Wash., also asks for a recount of all ballots cast in the election in the 50th Congressional District.S
Lehto says there is no way to ensure that the voting machines used by county elections officials were not tampered with, which Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas vigorously denied.
The county used paper ballots as part of an optical scanner system and touch-screen machines manufactured by Diebold. The vast majority of votes were cast by paper ballot, county officials said.
The lawsuit took specific aim at the practice of allowing poll workers to take the voting equipment home with them before the election -- a practice Haas said is done to ensure that polling places open on time.
"The thing you've got to know about using computers in the election is that computers do whatever they're told to do, without any regard to law, ethics or morality," Lehto said, adding he believes some machines were tampered with.
"When you send them on `sleepovers' from anywhere from three days to over a week, then you've lost all illusion about any kind of security."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters Gail Jacobsen, a San Diego mediator, and Lillian Ritt, a Rancho Santa Fe lawyer, Lehto said.
Haas declined to comment on the lawsuit, which he had not seen, but defended his department's handling of the election.
"There is nothing unusual or different about the way that we distribute election supplies to supervising poll workers," Haas said, noting that poll workers first must pass a training class.
"It is the most efficient, accountable and transparent practice we know of in which to assure that the polls open on time, at 7 o'clock in the morning, and that everything's ready to go on election day."
Haas added, "The election was run fairly and accurately, and if there were issues that we found -- either pre- or post-election -- you wouldn't have found my name on the document certifying the results."
Bilbray defeated Busby by four percentage points -- 49 percent to 45 percent in the heavily Republican district -- to fill out the term of Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion after admitting taking more than $2.4 million in bribes. He is serving a sentence of more than eight years in federal prison.
Bilbray and Busby face each other again in the Nov. 7 election to determine who will hold the seat in the next two-year term.
The voting machine issue in this contest has become a hot topic among liberal bloggers, but has gained little momentum elsewhere.
In mid-July, the all-Republican county Board of Supervisors declined a request by the chairman of the county Democratic Party for hearings into the reliability of the county's voting system.
In an interview yesterday, Busby -- not a party to the lawsuit -- distanced herself from its central premise that Bilbray's election was illegitimate and should be declared void.
"I have no reason to question the legitimacy of the election or the results of it," she said.
"But I do respect the fact that some citizens have some concerns. Trust and confidence in our voting process is central to trusting our democratic process."