Community Post: Pappas' Case Lacks Merit
Letter to the SYV Journal, Submitted February 18, 2009
I would like to respond to a number of recent articles in your publication regarding the ongoing court case Pappas vs. Farr. I understand that the publisher of this paper has contributed a significant amount to the Pappas campaign (Lompoc Record, Feb 8. 2009), and so I imagine this is an issue close to heart for this newspaper. However, I do recall reading that this paper welcomes dissenting opinions and that its mission is to provide a forum for better understanding, which I commend you for. In the spirit of full disclosure, I would like to state that I am from the Santa Ynez Valley (my family lives in Solvang), I attend UC Santa Barbara, and I live in Isla Vista. I walked to my polling place on election day and voted in one of the precincts Mr. Pappas now seeks to invalidate. Like Mr. Pappas, I am not a registered member of either party.
A number of claims have been made since the election regarding widespread election fraud in Isla Vista. One issue that has been raised was first-time voters providing IDs with regards to the Help America Vote Act (Journal, Nov. 27, 2008). It seemed as if this newspaper believed that voters were required to show their driver's license at the polling place. However, HAVA requirements are met by putting one's driver's license number on one's voter registration form. Further, any doubts regarding the sufficiency of identification presented are resolved in favor of the voter.
Another issue raised was concern that students had provided a P.O. Box address instead of their dorm room number and that these addresses were sequential. At UCSB, no mail is delivered to dorms and every student who lives in campus housing is issued a PO Box in the UCEN. Roommates share boxes and they are issued sequentially.
When the elections office defended the legitimacy of the process, the publisher stated this was “no assurance to those who feel that the UCSB student population for the last 30 years has been used to dictate policy... to the residents and property owners of the Santa Ynez Valley” (ibid). There seems to be two sentiments here. One, that students should not be able to vote because they live in a place for a temporary amount of time. The Supreme Court ruled in Symm v. United States that students who reside in an area are indeed residents. Further, military personnel at Vandenberg are also allowed to vote and are considered full-fledged residents and members of our community; students should be afforded the same respect. The second sentiment, is that the legitimate votes of liberal students are somehow unfair to those who disagree with them. This would make the contention one of gerrymandering, not of fraud.
In court, Pappas has claimed that because Box 12 on a registration card was not filled out, the vote should be discounted. Regardless of whether registrars were required to complete that box, California Elections Code 2158(b)(1) makes it clear that failure to complete Box 12 “shall not cause the invalidation of the registration of a voter”. Pappas and his attorney knew of this section and yet they proceeded to make this claim in court. As they knew would happen, Judge McLafferty dismissed this claim.
Pappas also claimed that because volunteers did not turn in registration cards within three days of collecting them, the votes should be discounted. However, Elections Code 2107(a) states that the county shall accept registrations “at all times” during the registration window. The sections that state that cards must be submitted in three days and the sanctions they discuss apply to the volunteers and not to the voters. The code makes it very clear that any minor technicalities are not to invalidate a vote; again, Judge McLafferty acted appropriately.
With these issues addressed, it remains to be seen what Mr. Pappas intends to claim. Until Mr. Pappas provides real evidence, I am forced to question the motives of the suit. In the Journal, the publisher wrote “Our election process is too precious to cavalierly distort even a single vote.” However, Mr. Pappas' selective targeting of precincts intends to silence a community. Everyone is concerned with improper registrations but some number of irregularities are likely to be found county wide. To insinuate that Joe Holland or Doreen Farr have done anything wrong is irresponsible. All too often, political elements make cavalier claims of election fraud (see http://TruthAboutFraud.org/). Many would like to eliminate the voices of minorities or young people (demographics present in the 18 precincts Mr. Pappas targets).
We certainly don't want votes to be cast improperly, but looking at the laws and the facts as they stand, it almost appears that the contesting of the election outcome is more of a dog and pony show designed to drum up support for future redistricting of the Third District than a case based on legitimate concerns of fraud. Instead of rallying the base against “the activist courts” or some vast left-wing conspiracy, I hope that those involved can stick to the facts and will examine the law as it's written. And if Mr. Pappas does have legitimate evidence of improper voting, I am eager to see to see it.