A point-by-point legal response to charges of serious irregularities in its conduct of the August 5 county election was filed in Chancery Court Thursday by the Shelby County Election Commission, and SCEC chairman Bill Giannini promised an even more detailed response for public consumption in the next few days."
The Commission filing, prepared by lawyer John Ryder, directly rebutted most of the specific allegations in the amended emergency petition filed last month by 10 plaintiffs — eight Democratic nominees who were certified as having been defeated in races for county offices and two defeated candidates for judicial positions.
The litigants’ petition asks that the results of the election be declared invalid as “incurably uncertain.”
There was partial concurrence on some of the points alleged by the plaintiffs — but only to minor circumstantial aspects of them and not at all to any charge of serious irregularity. The most obvious concession by the Commission — composed of three Republicans and two Democrats — was its admission that “there was a problem with the entry of date for the electronic poll book.”
This admission, relating to the fact that the names of some 5400 people who had early-voted during the May primary season had been improperly fed into the data bank for August 5 election-day voting, had already been acknowledged by the Commission. Previously, in reporting on its own internal investigation of the matter, the Commission had conceded what it termed “human error” and denied any consequences that could have transformed the result of any of the election races.
That reasoning, repeated again in Thursday’s filing, was that at least 2000 of the potentially affected voters ended up voting, either by means of provisional ballots or after signing “fail-safe” affidavits that allowed them to vote normally. The number of those remaining, argued the Commission, was insufficient to have altered any outcome. (It should be noted, however, that by this reasoning, one of the petitioners, defeated judicial candidate Glenn Wright, came within 1,516 votes of the winning candidate in his race, putting Wright potentially within the margin of doubt.)
In conversation afterward, Giannini and other commission members elaborated on some of the points at issue in the dispute. One of the most controversial has been that of a “manual override” function in the county’s Diebold machinery, alleged by the plaintiffs to have permitted alteration of the voting results. As explained by Giannini and the others, the use of the manual override function was restricted to allowing the addition of the aforesaid provisional ballots to the voting totals.
Giannini said that the other allegations — including one relating to disparities in the numbers of votes cast and voters certified as having voted and one that some of the machines were programmed with a “ghost race” in addition to the ones on the regular ballot visible to voters — would be addressed in greater detail in a follow-up document.