I’m writing this because in 2008 I lived in I.V. and most current students weren’t here. In 2008 Steve Pappas lost to Doreen Farr in the race for 3rd District supervisor by 2.27 percent. He lost the student vote by more than 2:1. Citing his gut feeling that he should have gotten more votes in I.V., Pappas demanded a recount. This netted him one extra vote. Still unsatisfied, he sued to have ALL I.V. votes thrown out. Despite three years and numerous appeals, Pappas hasn’t brought forth a single shred of evidence that any voter fraud took place, and admits he cannot name a single person that he believes voted improperly. Having lost in Court four times and having his allegations dismissed by one judge as “frivolous and tantamount to an intentional misleading of the Court”, Pappas has been ordered to pay Farr’s legal fees.
Bankrupting Doreen Farr was the clear primary objective of the lawsuit from the beginning. A quirk of California State law meant that as the winning candidate, Farr is responsible for defending the election in court, even though she wasn’t accused of doing anything improper. With big money developers bankrolling him, Pappas can afford to keep the lawsuit going indefinitely, and every dollar Farr spent isn’t available for her re-election campaign. This is why Pappas is appealing the $700,000 he owes Farr, to keep her cash poor for this June’s election.
But there is a second and more sinister motive to the lawsuit than a simple attempt to criminalize politics and bankrupt a political opponent. Pappas v. Farr is simply one front in the right’s nationwide effort to disenfranchise young voters. Speaking to a group of young activists, former President Bill Clinton described it as “one of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington D.C. today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time […] There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”
This movement is very real. It can be seen in Florida’s new law requiring those participating in voter registration activates to register in advance with the state, which has already caused to League of Women Voters to halt their voter registration drives, and will cripple college drives. In Maine, it’s Republican Assembly Speaker O’Brien attacking students saying we “are basically doing what I did when I was a kid and foolish, voting as a liberal. They don’t have life experience and they just vote their feelings,” before attempting to stop students from voting in state elections. Just last year in Chico, students defeated Measure A, which attempted to move the City Council elections into the summer when students wouldn’t be there to vote. And it’s not going to stop. Realizing they can’t win the votes of young people the right has decided to try to bar us from voting. We can’t let them take away our right to vote, and no Gaucho should ever give theirs to Steve Pappas.
Patrick Donahoe is a UCSB alumnus and a political organizer.