A Superior Court judge will hear evidence today concerning a handful of pre-trial motions that could largely affect Steve Pappas’ chance of unseating 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr.
The hearings, which are scheduled both in the morning and afternoon, will focus primarily on a set of motions filed by Farr’s legal team, the most recent of which seeks to protect UCSB students from a subpoena requiring the university to give up student records. The other pre-trial motions up for consideration, however, could prove far more important for the parties involved: Farr’s legal team will try to convince Superior Court Justice William McLafferty that technical mistakes made by persons involved in voter registration drives should not invalidate voter ballots, and that Pappas’ legal assertions should be thrown out.
In a motion filed late January, Farr’s attorneys Fred Woocher and Philip Seymour asked the judge to exclude all evidence concerning minor irregularities with registration cards on the basis that the mistakes were made beyond the control of the voters and are thus irrelevant.
“A substantial number of the claims advanced by Pappas in support of his election contest simply will not support the disqualification of any votes for illegality,” Farr’s motion stated. “While [Pappas] may be interested in throwing as many claims as possible against the wall in the hope that one of them may stick, these tactics should not be indulged at the expense of an unnecessarily protracted and costly trial.”
While Pappas’s legal team contends that they have several examples of intentional voter fraud, much of their case rests on the failure by the various campus registration drives to turn in registration cards within the allotted three-day period or their failure to properly fill out all sections of the form. If the judge were to grant Farr’s motion to have this evidence excluded from the trial Pappas case would likely be all but neutered.
Nonetheless, Pappas’ attorney Jeff Lake said that Pappas’s desire to uphold the integrity of the electoral process lies at the heart of his legal case.
“We want people’s votes to count,” Lake said in a recent interview with the Daily Nexus. “On the other hand, preserving the electoral process is more important than any one election.”
Since the actual ballots are not admissible in court, if the judge were to side with Pappas and invalidate a portion of the 9,700 votes cast by newly registered voters on the UCSB campus and in Isla Vista, the votes would be removed from both Farr’s and Pappas’ columns, based on voter percentages from that precinct. Given that Farr took approximately 65 percent of the student vote, roughly 3,000 votes would have to be invalidated for Pappas to overcome his 806-vote deficit.
Also under consideration this morning is a separate motion Farr filed on behalf of herself and the UCSB student body to prevent Pappas’ subpoena against the university for students’ personal records.
Although Lake claims that the data requested in the subpoena – including the names, birthdates and addresses of all UCSB students – will be used only to compare against data on contested registration cards and will be protected from public use during and after the trial, Farr’s legal team has claimed that it is a violation of student privacy.