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VOL. 125 | NO. 181 | Friday, September 17, 2010

Challengers Move Closer to Election Hearing

By Bill Dries

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All sides in the legal dispute over the Aug. 5 election results will meet with Chancellor Arnold Goldin Friday to begin wading through a series of motions and ultimately a hearing on the dispute.

Ten candidates who lost in the Aug. 5 county general elections filed two lawsuits – one before the election results were certified and the other after they were certified. Both are before Goldin and are likely to be combined, a decision that is up to Goldin.

Deputy County Attorney Danny Presley told Goldin earlier this week that the trial on the lawsuits needs to begin by Oct. 13 to meet standards for a timely review of the claim. Based on a 2006 election challenge, Presley said the trial could take three to four days.

The 10 candidates challenging the results contend the election results should be thrown out and new elections held because of problems with the vote count. Some of the candidates contend the problems were an intentional manipulation of the results.

The Shelby County Election Commission, the defendant, claims the results are valid and there was only one problem with the vote count that was quickly corrected.

The problem both sides agree on was the loading of an early voter list from the May elections into electronic poll books used on Election Day to determine who had voted early.

But the two sides differ on everything else about the problem – how many people were affected, whether it was a gaffe or intentional and when it was corrected.

The losing candidates have since filed another list of other problems they say they have documented through affidavits, including alternate vote counts and voting machines from the election still being open after the polls closed Aug. 5.

Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini has denied those allegations and has said the election results are valid.

Chancellor Walter Evans, who was assigned the first case and has since recused himself, set up a process for inspection of election equipment and paperwork. He appointed Chancery Court clerk Dewun Settle to act as a master over the process.

The process became contentious as the Election Commission worked to certify the election results. There were several standoffs between the plaintiffs and defendants.

The plaintiffs claim Election Commission temporary workers have not been cooperative because they were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

But county attorney Kelly Rayne said the agreements are standard written forms to guard against disclosure of the Social Security numbers and other personal information about voters.

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who is not a plaintiff, has questioned the county’s use of John Ryder as attorney for the Election Commission, noting Ryder’s GOP credentials as a former local party chairman and a current member of the Republican National Committee.

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