The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 February 2005

WA: P-I Confuses Readers With Slanted Headline on GOP Election Challenge

So far, media coverage of Friday's key ruling in the Washington State gubernatorial election challenge has been all over the place, leading to confusion. Let's try to get to the truth here, shall we?

Here's the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's headline and AP story:

Judge: No revote, even if Republicans win

(AP-Rebecca Cook) WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Dealing a blow to Republicans seeking a revote for Washington governor, a Chelan County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that even if Republicans win their election challenge he can't order a new election.

"The court doesn't have that authority," Judge John E. Bridges told a rapt courtroom in this Eastern Washington city.

Aside from the revote ruling, it was a day of setbacks for the Democrats as Bridges denied their motions to dismiss the challenge or move it to the Legislature.

Is the headline accurate or just presenting part of the story? If there isn't a revote opportunity, why would the Republicans bother to continue their suit?

Does it mean Gregoire wins and this is over? NO. It's just related to whether a judge can order a new election.

Actually, if vote fraud is proven, he can throw out the election results and award the governorship to Dino Rossi! That's potentially even better for the GOP, but of course it would be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

See why the AP/P-I headline stinks? It only tells part of the story, it's slanted beyond belief.

One problem- he has ordered the GOP to prove that fraudulent votes were actually cast for Christine Gregoire, not just that unlawful votes were cast in the race itself. How do you prove that secret ballots can be attached to individual voters?

David Postman of the Seattle Times has what I think is a better account of the confusing situation than the AP story the P-I ran:

Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit over governor's election

(David Postman- Seattle Times) WENATCHEE — Judge John Bridges today refused several Democratic attempts to dismiss the governor's election lawsuit, saying allegations made in the case, if proven at trial, would be sufficient to overturn the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Bridges also rejected Democratic arguments that any challenge of illegal votes by felons and others should have been made by Republicans before the election because they amount to problems with voter registration.

But he ruled that Republicans must show any illegal votes were cast in favor of Gregoire, and not Republican candidate Dino Rossi. There would have to be enough illegal Gregoire votes to erase her 129-vote victory margin.

Bridges said that if Republicans did prove their case, he would not order a new election for governor as they want him to do. Rossi has said that was the only remedy he would accept.

Democrats had argued the judge didn't have that power, and Bridges agreed. He said state law and the state constitution do not give him the power to order a new vote, which he called "special relief."

Some of the rulings were interpreted by both sides as victories. A transcript won't be available until next week, leaving some issues unclear.

Can you believe the two reporters were in the same courtroom? One says the GOP was dealt a blow, the other says Demos lost their main arguments.

Granted, it was a challenging situation for all of them, the judge wasn't entirely clear on some of these points. But the P-I version makes it sound like a Republican loss when that isn't the case.

Timothy Goddard at The Flag of the World has the best and most accurate summary of the whole story here:

First off, (Judge John) Bridges (of Wenatchee, Chelan County) made a statement that most people appear to have missed. (I’ll have to paraphrase until the transcript comes out, probably next week.) He said, essentially, if the Republicans can prove their allegations as they have stated them, then their election contest will prevail. This is, obviously, quite good news.

Second, the he ruled that he won’t be ordering a special election because he doesn’t have the authority. Some people have said this means “no revote,” which would be pretty deadly, but that’s not exactly true. Before Bridges even made his ruling, the Republican counsel said that the question before the court at that point was not “whether” to have a revote, but “when.” That is to say, would the court be able to order an election immediately, or wait until the next general election in November?

Click the link above to see the rest of Goddard's clear explanation of what the judge really said.

As always, check OrbusMax for the latest developments. GOPBloggers is covering this as well. As always: SoundPolitics.


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