July 21, 2008

Scott Prevails at Board of Elections. However, Status of Due Process in Rhode Island Still Unclear.

Carroll Andrew Morse

Democratic Party Chairman William Lynch has withdrawn his challenge to Jon Scott’s ballot certification as a candidate for Congress in Rhode Island’s First District. On Friday, candidate Scott was informed by the Board of Elections of the challenge to the Secretary of State's certification, but was not informed of any specific signatures under challenge, nor of any basis for the challenge at all. According to Scott, he was simply informed that an initial hearing would be held on Monday at 10 am.

The lesson here is that if you decide to run against a powerful figure in Rhode Island, you are subject to being summoned before a state board, without being informed of the specific charge against you. Due process rights, apparently in Rhode Island, don’t extend to those who dare challenge the local political aristocracy -- yet ironically enough, protecting people from the aristocracy was one of the reasons that the idea of due process was developed in the first place!

The vagueness of the charge, followed by its immediate withdrawal, makes it pretty clear that Lynch was engaging in an electoral-board version of a strategic lawsuit against public participation (a SLAPP), where the goal is not to win a claim on its merits, but to force a party being sued to expend resources and effort trying to defend themselves. Unfortunately, activities associated with running for office are not covered by the letter of Rhode Island’s anti-SLAPP law, which specifically names the rights of petition and free speech as the activities protected. With political corruption in Rhode Island being what it is, Rhode Island’s good-government forces should seriously consider a campaign to extend SLAPP protections to the right to run for office.

Finally, the fact that the state Board of Elections was ready to follow through on a vague, unspecific charge suggests that things haven’t improved much since March of 2006, when Judge Stephen Fortunato made public note of the BOE's failure to protect the rights of individuals under its jurisdiction…

Fortunato had criticized the Board of Elections at length for failing to address the First Amendment and due-process rights of targets of an investigation or enforcement action.

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"The lesson here is that if you decide to run against a powerful figure in Rhode Island, you are subject to being summoned before a state board, without being informed of the specific charge against you."

Excellent, Andrew.

How did this hearing even get scheduled if no basis for a challenge was presented?

Posted by: Monique at July 21, 2008 4:08 PM

Great question about which I'm sure no good answer will be forthcoming.

On Lynch's complaint, he simply indicated "based on the validity of signatures." However, he did not specify any specific signatures which were in question.

It probably also didn't help that Bill Lynch's complaint was filed against "John Scott," not "Jonathan P. Scott" who was the actual candidate. Had it been taken up by the Board of Elections, it would likely have eventually been dismissed on that technicality.

PS You may have heard that US Senate candidate (in the Democratic Primary) Chris Young, who Lynch also unsuccessfully challenged, brought up today that some of Jack Reed's signatures appear to be questionable.

Posted by: Will at July 21, 2008 5:05 PM

Don't forget his little brother:



Posted by: Citizen Critic at July 21, 2008 5:05 PM


Not a surprise Jack Reed has collected some highly questionable signatures. Few if any of his fellow Lollipop Guild members live in Rhode Island.

Posted by: Tim at July 21, 2008 5:28 PM

The Executive Director of the BOE, Bob Kando, and Billy Lynch are as thick as thieves, having both been reared in the Pawtucket Democratic machine.

When Billy says "Jump!" Kando says "How high?" and then thanks him for engineering the BOE job for him.

Sadly, only in RI.

Posted by: oz at July 21, 2008 9:43 PM

Sounds like something that the Attorney General should investigate.

Oh, wait, the Attorney General's brother is ...

Paging Bob Corrente! Paging Bob Corrente! This involved a race for a federal office!

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at July 21, 2008 10:22 PM

The RIBOE is a joke. Remember what James Bopp the attorney from Indiana said about them. He was appauled that they make up their rules as they go along. Another thing to remember too, is that RI is a pink-eyed village. You have the dem chair, and his AG brother and their cronies ruining this fine state. Poor Fed Atty Corrente is in over his head. Every rock he turns over requires an investigation. I won't be surprised if they have an investigation in the BOE after this election. Fair Elections and Black Box Voting, as well as other good government groups should seriously monitor this department. The public only have voters rights when these clowns want them too.

FYI, I wonder how many illegals will be voting again this year.

Posted by: kathy at July 23, 2008 7:34 PM
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