Monday, June 06, 2005

Recent Court Rulings

Two recent Court rulings have me concerned, neither having to do with Michael Jackson, thank God.

The first was the election contest for the Governors race here in Washington. For background (my blogs anyway) look here, here and here. In short, the Governors race was won after 2 recounts by a mere 129 votes, leading to an election contest suit.

Today the judge ruled against the challenger, Dino Rossi. All that's fine and dandy, and you would think it would solve things. The problem is that the Court made some strange findings. First it made a finding of fact that more the 1600 illegal votes had indeed been cast by felons, dead people, double voters and provisional ballots. 1600+ versus 129 seems like a no brainer, but there is a little hitch, a lovely legal logic trap. According to the election contest statute, you have to prove that each vote went to a particular candidate or not to prove that removing those votes would have changed the election outcome. But since the Washington State Constitution requires that votes be anonymous, how can you prove who voted what? And since voting illegally is a felony, who is going to admit to it?

So the judge ruled that those 1600 votes were invalid, but without substantive evidence of who voted which way, he couldn't toss the election. He merely allowed the discrepancy to stand.

Now, first, under the statute, he made the right decision, because the burden that the statute imposes is nearly impossible to meet. You would have to confront 1600 people, assuming you could identify them, and expect them to not only admit to a felonious act, but also tell the truth about who the voted for. The only other method available was called statistical proportional deduction (if a precinct was 60-40 for one candidate, then the votes removed from that precinct are deducted at the same ratio) which is scientifically unproven, and the court refused to use it.

All it really did was show how messed up King County is. They *found* new ballots 9 times, and in every case, the new ballots favored one candidate. They admitted to false reporting, had thousands of ballots more then voters, had no method to verify the legality of a voter, allowed provisional ballots to be counted unverified, mishandled absentee ballots and more.

I would have hoped that the legislature would deal with election reform, but it passed a milquetoast reform bill that makes fraud easier. The demon of this election was a corrupt system, and no manner to redress it. So far, no one has lost their jobs or been reprimanded, aside from a few caustic comments by the Judge.

The second case involved the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling that the Federal Government can prosecute a person who is using marijuana under a doctors supervision, regardless of whether that usage is allowable under medicinal marijuana laws, as we have here in Washington.

I wont argue the merits of medicinal Marijuana use other then to say that I think the insistence on smoking it ruins the case for its use, when other delivery methods exist. Inhalation of the smoke is an imprecise delivery method, and the smoke itself offers some manner of harm. I also thinking Marinal, the synthetic Marijuana has not been given fair trials by some people. Finally I think medicinal applications of THC in general needs to be looked at more deeply, and all possible applications of be explored. If Hemp has that much value, we need to explore it.

That said, I am concerned about the ruling for a completely different reason. States Rights. While I will never be a full throttle Libertarian, I am growing increasingly more disgusted with our Federal Nanny-State Government. The Federal Government should not impose on a State's right to legislate its laws, unless there is overwhelming need. Since medicinal marijuana is essentially a victimless crime, I say let each state mandate it according to the will of its electorate.

The ruling further degenerates a State's rights to self governance. I worry we are heading towards a point where the Federal Government crosses the line into Tyranny. The Federal Government dominates the States with a blackmail system (deprivation of highway funds) to force speed limits, drinking ages, seatbelt and helmet use and more. Exactly what is next?

In both cases, laws were passed to protect the rights of people. In one case, the law was poorly written, is practically unenforcable, and is generally ineffective for its core purpose and thus the will of the people cannot be carried out. In the other the Federal Government insists on ignoring it, citing its preeminent right to be the final judge of what is a crime or not, and likewise, the will of the people is ignored. In both cases, the really power in this country, the will of the people, is sacrificed for the rights of the government itself.

The older I get, the more I distrust the Government.

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788