Candidates try new argument in effort to overturn vote
Published: January 25, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - In an effort to convince a federal judge to intervene in the territory's nearly three-month-old election, five candidates are now citing a 2010 case in which, they argue, a District Court in New York did something similar.
Senatorial candidate Lawrence Olive, Senate At-large candidate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto, Delegate to Congress candidate Norma Pickard-Samuel and Board of Elections candidates Harriet Mercer and Diane Magras jointly filed a lawsuit in December challenging the validity of the territory's 2012 elections.
At the heart of the complaint are allegations that defendants in the V.I. Election System violated the federal Help America Vote Act and local laws requiring the use of only voting machines certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
The government last week moved to dismiss the complaint after Judge Raymond Finch denied one of its main requests, which was to halt the swearing-in earlier this month of the territory's newly elected officials.
The plaintiffs responded in an opposition motion filed Tuesday that rehashes certain allegations that the defendants have shown a "history of non-compliance to federal law" and violated a local law requiring EAC-certified voting machines.
But in a new twist, the opposition motion also seeks to counter one of the defense attorneys' claims that the plaintiffs do not have standing as private citizens to bring a claim under the Help America Vote Act. To support their contention, the plaintiffs cite a 2006 case in which the U.S. Attorney filed suit against the New York State Board of Elections - prior to the election - "alleging a variety of allegations identical in many respects" to the V.I. plaintiffs' claims.
The New York case was appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which issued an order in 2010 requiring the New York Board to comply with previous court orders and to comply with a local law requiring that the Board use voting machines that are compliant with the Help America Vote Act, according to the plaintiffs' motion.
The V.I. plaintiffs asked the U.S. Attorney assigned to the territory to intervene in their case in a letter sent this week.
The motion also reiterates an earlier argument from the plaintiffs that their lawsuit was not imprudently delayed, and therefore potentially barred by what is known as the doctrine of laches.
"At no time did Plaintiffs adopt a 'wait and see' attitude in terms of vote tabulation nor entertain the idea of challenging elections results in the event they were not elected," the opposition motion states. "The process itself would yield its own preponderance of evidence that could be utilized by any candidate, voter, or legal authority challenging the election outcome - win or lose. Yet, Plaintiffs are being penalized in terms of loss of standing for acting in good faith to follow the law and being unfairly assigned a variety of nefarious motives in the process."
Finch had not ruled on this motion as of Thursday night.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.