To find out about an election scandal in my home Congressional district, it makes sense I had to read about it on a news site in New Zealand.
On June 6, there was a special election in this district in San Diego, voting on a replacement for disgraced/jailed Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham. In this election, immigrant-hatin’ Republican Brian Bilbray seemingly beat out bland Democrat Francine Busby.
On June 13, Bilbray was sworn in as a member of the House of Represenatives by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
On June 30, the San Diego County Registrar officially certified the election results, declaring Bilbray the winner.
Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed an wee incongruity there. Somehow, Bilbray was sworn into office before he was officially declared the winner! Not sure what law that violates, swearing in a guy to office who wasn’t (yet) elected to that office, but it certainly seems just a tad illegal.
Now, we add Layer Two to this controversy: two San Diegans have filed an “election contest” (I think that’s like a type of lawsuit), alleging a number of shady doings in this election, not the least of which was that several poll workers took the voting machines home with them for several days. Given how easy it is to manipulate and tamper with some voting machines, it seems that people having access to voting machines with no supervision is a valid concern. The “election contest” calls for a recount of the ballots.
Layer Three gets us to Crazy Town. The County of San Diego is attempting to say that local courts have no jurisdiction over this issue, that the House of Representatives has jurisdiction here. Because a) Bilbray has been sworn in and is therefore a member of the House, and b) Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which reads “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members”.
Of course, both of these arguments run totally counter to common sense. A guy can be sworn to office when they’re still counting votes? Local governments aren’t in control of local elections? At the very least, argument B seems easily contradicted by another portion of the Constitution, Article I, Section 4 says that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Which might mean that this is neither the House nor the local courts have jurisdiction, that this would be a State of California thing, but I’m no law expert.
The case is still going. At present, it looks like the courts are going to say that yes the local courts do have jurisdiction here. I’ll keep you updated if anything interesting happens.
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