On Friday, November 16, 2012, the Idaho Supreme Court filed its decision affirming the trial court’s decision in the 2009 Coeur d’Alene election contest lawsuit. Here is a link to the Supreme Court’s decision.
In response to OpenCdA’s request, appellant Jim Brannon provided this prepared statement.
Thanks to the efforts, diligence, and integrity of Jim and Christine Brannon, Starr and Matt Kelso, and the many volunteers who donated time, money, and labor beginning November 6, 2009, many flaws in Idaho’s election laws and many failures of duty by city, county, and state public officials have been exposed for public scrutiny. To the extent those flaws either have been corrected by the election of new officials or legislative action, the election contest lawsuit served to benefit all legal voters in Idaho.
One issue Brannon raised on appeal was whether Senior District Court Judge Charles Hosack had erred at the trial when Hosack ruled that persons who had registered to vote in Idaho under the provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absent Voting Act (UOCAVA) had been properly and legally allowed to vote in the 2009 Coeur d’Alene municipal election. Hosack ruled that their votes (the “Canada votes”, though it also implicated voters living outside Canada) should lawfully be counted, that registering under UOCAVA to vote in federal and Idaho state elections simultaneously permitted them to vote in municipal elections.
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Hosack erred when he ruled that UOCAVA extends to municipal elections in Idaho. While the Idaho legislature had explicitly applied the UOCAVA registration procedures to state and county elections conducted under Idaho Code Title 34, it had failed to apply them to municipal elections under Idaho Code Title 50, the law covering municipal elections in 2009.
So what does that ruling mean? It means that up until Brannon’s attorney Starr Kelso diligently researched the law, the Coeur d’Alene City Clerk and the Kootenai County Clerk had been allowing illegal votes to be cast in Coeur d’Alene municipal elections. They sent absentee ballots to people who were not legal residents of Coeur d’Alene either in fact or in law (UOCAVA), and they counted ballots which were voted and returned.
It’s fair to ask why Brannon’s attorney Starr Kelso was the first attorney to research and reveal this. Wasn’t Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (himself an attorney) supposed to be diligently reviewing election laws to ensure they mesh properly? After all, he was supposedly responsible for interpreting election laws to the county clerks. And where was the Idaho Attorney General’s office on this? How about the Coeur d’Alene City Attorney and the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney? If all these other taxpayer-paid attorneys involved in the review and application of election laws missed what Starr Kelso’s diligent research found, isn’t it likely that other city and county clerks throughout Idaho had been making the same violation for many election cycles just like Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County?
If I were a legislator, I’d question whether I could rely on interpretations and advice from Ysursa and the Attorney General’s Office.
Fortunately, this gross violation by a plethora of taxpayer-paid attorneys has been corrected in the 2011 election law amendments, but citizens could reasonably wonder what other unexploded legal bombs are lurking in Idaho’s election laws. Maybe the Idaho Legislature needs to encourage Secretary of State Ysursa and Attorney General Wasden to perform their duties as diligently as Starr Kelso performed his.
I’ve gone into some detail on just this particular issue raised on appeal, because many of Jim Brannon’s detractors have accused him of wasting taxpayer money by pursuing this lawsuit. Given that it was Brannon’s attorney who uncovered the years of allowing violative UOCAVA ballots by the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Coeur d’Alene City attorney, and the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney, perhaps Brannon’s detractors ought to seek to have them replenish the public coffer.
As we noted in our report The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Election Contest Lawsuit – 2009-2011, the lawsuit and appeal should have sent a very clear message to the Idaho Legislature that they have work to do. Jim and Christine Brannon, Starr and Matt Kelso, and a lot of citizen volunteers who want integrity in Idaho’s elections have done their part. Now it’s up to the Legislature.