Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Guest View: Shirl Lamonna: Your Right To Vote For Qualified Candidates Overthrown

Voting is out cherished right
The "Right To Vote" is one of the most cherished rights of citizenship in the United States. Women in the Suffrage movement fought hard for this right. Some were arrested and placed in solitary confinement in prison. And when they went on hunger strikes to protest this unfair treatment, they were force-fed for as long as three weeks. The public was outraged and after fighting for voting rights for nearly 100 years, American women exercised their right to vote for the first time in 1920.

Oro Valley Council Candidate Lamonna
Nearly 100 years later, our fight is to ensure the security and integrity of the election process. There are many examples of attempts to steal elections throughout history. For example, 135 percent of eligible voters turned out for an 1844 election in New York and more than 5,000 fraudulent absentee ballots were overturned in the 1997 Miami mayor’s race.

Getting candidate nomination papers right matters
But even before the actual elections, there can be problems with the nomination petitions that are a requirement for a candidate to get on the ballot. In 2014, 396 challenges were filed against nomination petitions for potential City Committee candidates in Philadelphia.

Here in the Oro Valley Recall election, local resident Don Bristow filed a challenge against the nomination petitions of Douglas Burke. Burke is running for Mary Snider’s seat and I am also a candidate for that seat.

Oro Valley resident DoBristow challenged Burke's nomonation papers for good reason: The papers were not right!
Bristow was concerned with Burke’s late entry into the recall election. It simply didn’t make sense as Burke had not been involved in town politics before then. So he requested copies of Burke’s nomination petitions in order to verify the integrity of the signatures. He found a number of signatures were invalid because the people who signed did not live in Oro Valley, were not registered to vote, did not include the required date of signature or had previously signed my petitions.

Bristow also discovered that, in addition to these other errors, the backs of the petitions were entirely missing the State required affidavits. Bristow immediately consulted the Pima County Recorder’s Office and an attorney on the process to file challenges. He filed the challenge in Pima County Superior Court three days prior to the statutory deadline.

There is no dispute: Burke did not follow the filing rules
I contributed to funding this challenge of Burke’s candidacy because, based on the law and Bristow’s fact finding, Burke should not have been allowed to be on the ballot.

Both the Town and the County’s motions to dismiss the challenge were denied. Court documents state “There was no dispute that Burke’s petitions did not have any certification on the back page.” The documents further state that the Town Clerk had discovered the errors shortly after Burke submitted his petitions and left her office, but he was never notified. Burke did not dispute any facts of the case.

Ultimately, the Judge declared the challenge “moot” on the basis that it was filed too late. The Judge chose to ignore the statutory deadline. Instead, he chose to allow the election to proceed as is.

The Judge based his decision on testimony from Pima County that the election had already begun. They had already emailed 30 early ballots to military families overseas of which four had been returned. According to the County, a redo would create a great logistical nightmare!

Therefore, Burke is on the ballot despite court findings that his petitions were missing the required certification.

An invalid candidate should not be on the ballot
I believe in the purity of elections; that it is the fundamental right of every Oro Valley resident to vote and to have their vote count. Invalid candidates should never appear on a ballot regardless of who they run against.

My financial contribution to the court challenge was not with nefarious intent as some would lead you to believe. I was a citizen confronted with evidence of errors and the possibility of electoral misconduct. So I did what I felt was necessary to ensure that your right to vote for qualified candidates was not overthrown.

The fact that Burke is one of my two opponents in this race is not the point. Rather, I believe that ballots should contain only the names of candidates who follow the rules of submission for nomination petitions. Otherwise, anyone would be able to get on the ballot.

The filing rules apply to all
I followed the filing rules. So did candidates Steve Didio, Ryan Hurtung, and Pat Straney. None of us decided to ignore a submission rule because, as Burke testified, he “didn’t think it applied” to him.

There are some who will always choose to criticize those of us who do the right thing. They would prefer that we “go with the flow” or “go along to get along.” That’s why Oro Valley – in fact the entire country – is so upset with politics today. That misguided attitude leads to disenfranchised residents whose needs are never considered.

So despite the outcome, I stand by my decision to support the challenge and protect the democratic voting process in Oro Valley. I will always adhere to these standards.

I believe everyone should have a choice and a voice. Vote for honesty and transparency in the November recall election. Vote for someone who will stand up for you and work to end the divisiveness in our Town.

I am Your Choice for a Voice

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