The Final Countdown: Time to Concede in District 12by Kyle Michaelis
Yesterday, the Omaha World-Herald reported:
Legislative candidate Jean Stothert laid the groundwork Tuesday for a possible election challenge in her bid for Omaha's District 12 seat.And, today, the Omaha World-Herald updates:
Stothert's attorney sent a letter to Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps saying she had discovered that "dozens of apparently invalid provisional ballots" had been included in the vote count.
The letter asked Phipps not to count those ballots during today's recount.
"The people of District 12 deserve a fair vote count according to the laws of our state," said Stothert, a Republican.
The morning after the Nov. 7 election, Stothert led Democrat Steve Lathrop by 14 votes in the officially nonpartisan election, but when the provisional ballots were added in, Lathrop claimed a 15-vote edge. The final unofficial totals were 5,072 for Lathrop and 5,057 for Stothert.
People who move within a county without re-registering are allowed to cast provisional ballots. The ballots are counted only after the voters' addresses are verified.
In the letter to Phipps, attorney Steve Grasz said provisional ballots must be accompanied by a voter registration application that includes the voter's current and previous addresses.
The ballots in question had the application, he said, but not the previous address.
Phipps, a Republican, rejected 39 of the 108 provisional ballots for other reasons, Grasz said, but the address issue affects "dozens" of the remaining 69 ballots.
Neal Erickson, deputy secretary of state for elections, said it would be impossible now to identify which ballots were affected by the questions Stothert raised.
Following today's recount, the District 12 loser could bring an election challenge. It would be up to the Legislature to decide the winner in such a case.
Steve Lathrop was confirmed Wednesday as the victor in the southwest Omaha Legislative District following a complete recount of the votes cast in the Nov. 7 election.....Stothert's right to challenge the election results does not negate her responsibilities to the voters. Just doing the math, Stothert must have lost on the provisional ballots that were counted by an approximate count of 20 to 49 for them to have flipped the election as they did. Under the circumstances, her only claim to victory would require that all the provisional ballots be excluded, including many about which there is no question of their validity.
The final totals being sent to the State Board of Canvassers, which will certify election results on Monday, was 5,073 for Lathrop and 5,059 for Stothert. Lathrop gained one vote and Stothert two as a result of the recount of all ballots cast.
Stothert has until Dec. 15 to file an official protest.
Although the temptation of a last-ditch attempt to exploit this "previous address" technicality is understandable, no one should want to win that way. It would be both cynical and contemptible for Stothert to even make any further attempt at suppressing these votes.
She lost the race. If she has any respect for the voice of her would-be constituents, Stothert must now concede.
The Nebraska Democratic Party's website states:
While there has been talk of Stothert asking the Legislature to overturn the election results, Lathrop said he does not believe state lawmakers would act to disenfranchise District 12 voters and overturn the will of the people.
“The 69 ballots that attorneys for Jean are arguing about clearly represent the votes of legitimate District 12 voters,” said Lathrop.
Stothert has stated that District 12 voters "deserve a fair vote count." That's precisely what they've had throughout the entire recount process. But, the people also deserve to have their vote counted.
Any further challenge by Stothert can only fly in the face of this principle, looking to the Legislature to violate the integrity of our democracy for no other reason but to have one more Republican in that officially non-partisan body.
It's time for Stothert to prove she would have belonged in the legislature. It's time for her to put aside her own ambitions and the interests of the Republican Party to do the right thing for Nebraska. It's time to recognize the will of the people and concede to newly-elected State Sen. Steve Lathrop.