In a 7-2 decision released today, the Washington State Supreme Court dismissed the last four election contest lawsuits stemming from 2004’s disputed gubernatorial election.
Three of the contests were dismissed because they “fail to state a cognizable claim under the election contest statute.” The fourth contest, that filed by Suzanne D. Karr of Snohomish County was ruled to be identical to that already decided by Judge Bridges (you know… the one dismissed “with prejudice,”) and thus was barred under “the doctrine of res judicata.” The BIAW’s justices, Jim Johnson & Richard Sanders, both dissented on the fourth dismissal.
I’m not an attorney, and I haven’t studied the issue, so it’s really hard for me to comment on the validity of the dissenting opinion. But it does seem rather obvious that it would be unfeasible to allow multiple lawsuits on the same issues.
But as to the first three contests, well… they were downright silly. One contest argued that the constitutional guarantee of a “free and equal” election was violated by allowing Democrats to “purchase the right to a hand recount.” Uh-huh. Another contest argues that Gov. Gregoire is unfit for office because the petitioner’s severely autistic son was abused in foster care while Gregoire was AG. Okay. And the third contest asked the court to nullify the election because:
“The delta value of votes given to both candidates is exponentially within the tally’s margin of error, to the point that error must be assumed as a certainty, as given by three separate counts resulting in three different outcomes.”
Not that I should be dismissive. These arguments are at least as compelling as those brought forth by Dino Rossi’s attorneys.
But perhaps the most interesting tidbit in the decision is that which came in its conclusion:
The parties in the contests of Coday, Goodall, Karr, and Stevens have not raised the issue of this court’s jurisdiction to decide an election contest for governor. Article III, section 4, of the Washington Constitution says that election contests for statewide executives, including the governor, “shall be decided by the legislature in such manner as shall be determined by law.” We have assumed, without deciding, that chapter 29A.68 RCW confers jurisdiction on this court to decide the present election contests. We reserve the right to consider the question of whether the constitution gives the legislature exclusive jurisdiction over governor’s election contests if it is properly raised at some future time.
So… the Court is expressly leaving open the question of whether any court actually had the jurisdiction to hear this contest in the first place. Hmm.