Lawsuit Seeks to Delay Special Vote in District 15 Senate Race

Former Assembly member John Laird and current Assembly member Sam Blakeslee may have officially announced their candidacies and are preparing for a shotgun wedding-style campaign for recently confirmed Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado’s 15th district senate seat – but hooold your horses, cowboys! A lawsuit filed this morning is trying to delay the June 22 special election and names one of the counties in the district, Monterey, as a defendant. The document says the special election ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last month would put Monterey County in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue that the special election needs federal approval from the Justice Department and that the dates set – a June 22 primary and an August 17 runoff – do not allow enough time for the county to prepare. “They’re required to get the preclearing and they haven’t gotten it and they need to get it,” says Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld, a San Francisco-based lawyer for the plaintiffs. The California Democratic Party is reportedly backing the suit.

The complaint also says the election ought to take place in November, placing it on the ballot with higher profile, national contests, something Democrats had hoped Schwarzenegger would do on his own. The general consensus seems to be that a November election with a higher turnout would play out better for a Democratic candidate – in this case, John Laird. So they were necessarily incensed when Schwarzenegger stamped out those hopes hours after Maldonado’s confirmation, issuing the executive order for the June primary.

Laird responded to the news by writing a letter to Blakeslee, asking him to temporarily put the competition aside and join forces in asking the Gov. to delay the election. “Because Monterey County is a Voting Rights Act county, there are serious issues about whether minority voters are being disproportionately disenfranchised because of the special election date,” he wrote. “Enough is enough. We will be spending millions of dollars that our counties desperately need on an election at the same time essential services are being cut.”

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court and has already been assigned to Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose.

3 Comments

  1. Good for them (the litigants.)

    This race represents all that is wrong with california’s partisan political system.  The majority party in the state legislature delayed confirming the appointment as a calculated move to create a low turnout special election where this party stood a good shot at winning easily.

    The first thing a party in power does is work on staying in power.  Period.  When they go so far in rigging the system that power becomes more important than the public services for which that power is meant, usually there’s a readjustment and backlash.

    In our current climate where things are falling apart but official party line says we’re starting a strong recovery, we’re still too mixed up to look at things rationally.  Bottom line is people are scared and hopeful at the same time.  Do we stay the course and spend our way out of disaster?  Will Uncle Sam (santa clause) bail us out with magic money (mana) from heavenly D.C. ?

    Anyway….let’s just say the election deserves a normal primary process with a run-off on the November ballot along with the gubernatorial candidates.  Anything that messes up dirty tricks that politicians are playing is alright with me.  Even if the case has week standing, the party leaders running the grift deserve at least a yellow light (slow down) if not a clear red (stop what your doing). 

    Also, if anyone wants to talk term limits, I’m willing to consider that they haven’t improved the business of government in California.  If anything, I’m deprived of voting for some candidates I do like because term limits keeps them from running for re-election.  The power of incumbency is huge, however, so once in a seat, most will stay until they retire, die or find an easy win seat to move up to.  But at least they learned enough while in office to move beyond simple placation politics and we didn’t have such horrible financial messes.  Personally I think the seeds of our current mess were sown long ago and we’d still be here without term limits, but that’s just me.

    • “This race represents all that is wrong with california’s partisan political system.  The majority party in the state legislature delayed confirming the appointment as a calculated move to create a low turnout special election where this party stood a good shot at winning easily.”

      Its not like there is some iron law of physics that prevents Democrats from participating in special elections.  You seem to imply that special elections are somehow unfair, due to the propensity of left-leaning voters to voluntarily sit them out.  Instead of trying to limit the practice of special elections, Democrats should work on trying to get their voters to turn out and vote in them.  Elections should not be re-scheduled because of a perception that its less difficult for one party to prevail in them.  Elections should be held according to the lawful timetable, not delayed five months so that the Democrats will have a better chance at taking a given seat.

  2. “Laird responded to the news by writing a letter to Blakeslee, asking him to temporarily put the competition aside and join forces in asking the Gov. to delay the election. ‘Because Monterey County is a Voting Rights Act county, there are serious issues about whether minority voters are being disproportionately disenfranchised because of the special election date,’ he wrote.”

    What an absurdity!  The very idea that Monterey County is covered under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a relic, of, well, 1965.  Mexican-Americans in Monterey County aren’t a bunch of semi-literate, Spanish-speaking farmhands, ripe to be exploited by sinister gringo padrones, in the year 2010, and its frankly insulting to them that the Federal government is apparently pretending that they are, and that they are thus some feeble segment of society who’s rights must be protected by the Great White Father in Washington.

    Realistically, there’s probably no reason for the Congress to keep periodically renewing the Voting Rights Act, but if they feel they must, they should at least update the Act so that its scope is limited to just those jurisdictions where there is any actual basis for having it.  Its remotely possible that in the year 2010, there are some rural counties in the Deep South that still benefit from the Act (although I doubt it), but the idea that Monterey County needs to be filed under the same classification as that of the Selma, Alabama of 1965, is ludicrous beyond belief.

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