Lehto Selected For Election Challenge
To head Busby-Bilbray Recount Effort in California's
50th Congressional District
By Michael Collins
Special for "Scoop Independent News"
Noted attorney and clean election advocate Paul Lehto was selected as counsel for an upcoming election contest related to the Busby-Bilbray special election in California's 50th Congressional district. The 50th is located in San Diego County with the upscale community of Rancho Santa Fe, CA at its center.
Background on the 50th Cong. Dist. Race. This seat for the U.S. House of Representatives was vacated when long term U.S. Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham was forced to resign after a series of scandals. Cunningham, a former pilot and decorated war veteran, was caught in the midst of a larger scandal involving payoffs in the million dollar range by major defense contractors. He resigned in shame, and is now serving a criminal sentence.
A party primary was held on April 11, 2006 resulting in Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby facing off in the special election for the seat held on June 6, 2006. The campaign was intense and unusually close given the history of the district. Political observers in California note that the district was designed to be Republican in perpetuity.
Despite the strong tilt towards Republican outcomes, the race was highly competitive from the start and drew national attention. Turnout was over 40%, good for a special election. Republican Bilbray was reported to have prevailed by elections officials with 78,341 to Busby's 71,146.
No sooner had the votes been counted than a massive irregularity was uncovered. Election workers in the 50th had taken voting machines home with them overnight, days and weeks prior to the election. The Registrar of Voters sent the machines home for these “overnights” on nothing more than a signature. This was uncovered by local election reform advocates and investigated in depth by election reform advocate and information provider Brad Friedman of BradBlog.Com. Friedman's in depth reporting has been a key element in keeping the 50th district election problems in public focus.
As a result of this and many other facts and irregularities, citizens and activists will file a formal complaint in the San Diego Superior Court. This follows a citizen-voter’s request for a hand count under the recount provision of the California Elections Code. In her letter, Jacobson wrote: "Because of the multiplicity of ways to tamper with votes, and Mr. Haas's consequent ignoring of the vulnerabilities and security mitigation requirements, both state and federal certification of the machines were invalidated and rendered null."
Lehto Takes the Case
Paul Lehto was approached over the weekend and accepted the role of counsel in this case. He will work with local counsel. Paul Lehto is a business law and consumer fraud attorney from an Everett, Washington. He is a retired governor of the Washington State Bar Association and was voted "Rising Star" in 2003 and 2004 by Washington State Law and Politics magazine.
In 2004, Lehto was one of the thousands of lawyers monitoring the presidential election. This experience led him to major activity as an election reform advocate. He conducted a highly regarded study on the unusual 2004 election result patterns in Snohomish County Washington, (just north of Seattle). The study serves as a blueprint for evaluating election fraud. Steven Freeman, PhD , of the University of Pennsylvania describes it as one of the best natural studies of election irregularities in his book Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? and also thanked Lehto for his shedding light on the entire area of electronic voting.
As a result of his experience in the 2004 election, Lehto became the plaintiff in a ground breaking law suit against voting machine manufacturer, Sequoia, which controls about 30% of the U.S. market. Lehto and co-plaintiff John Wells sought to void the purchase contract for the Sequoia electronic voting machines. The approach focused on the illegality of secret vote counting in democracy, and the inconsistency between “secret” (computerized) voting and the conduct of legitimate democratic elections.
This lawsuit attracted local and national attention and helped create a political issue over electronic voting in the county. The political climate changed. With public focus also on voting systems because of the election contest in the governor’s race, Sequoia ended up losing its touch screen business in Snohomish County when the County Council voted to abandon touch screen voting machines in favor of mail-in balloting similar to Oregon’s statewide system. Although the County and Sequoia argue that this made the lawsuit moot, the lawsuit continues on appeal, seeking a refund of the county’s money.
Lehto is also counsel in a case of major election fraud in Whitley County, Kentucky. Retained by citizens to assist local counsel in late June, 2006 in order to address an array of apparently fraudulent activities on the electronic voting machines, Lehto continues to assist local counsel Lee Gilbert in that ongoing case.
Award winning Tribune Media Syndicate columnist Robert Koehler has featured Lehto in two of his columns on election reform. In one, he quotes Lehto on touch screen voting: "With DREs (direct-recording electronic, touch screen voting machines), the voter never sees the legal ballot in the first place, nor do even the election officials. The magic numbers just pop out of the DRE." A representative sample of Lehto’s writing for general audiences regarding elections and electronic voting appeared recently in Real Change News .
Lehto was also the subject of a major “Scoop” Independent News article, Secret Vote Counting Crammed Down the Throat of Democracy by this author. A documented exchange between Lehto and federal Elections Assistance Commissioner Martinez made clear that very little thought was given to the rights of citizens to observe vote taking and counting; and thus for citizens to be assured that election results actually reflect the public vote.
Lehto appears on radio and television shows, writes for various publications, and addresses concerned audiences in his work on election reform and ending the process of secret unverifiable voting on electronic voting machines, in both their touch screen and optical scan varieties.