The City's Pulse Newsletter
A Witch Hunt?


How unprofessional.  A county attorney is using the media to openly ridicule citizen efforts. Not only that, but he is asking that the records from the last election be sealed, so the public cannot view them.  And his salary is paid by the very people he insults and obstructs.

Kootenai County attorney John Cafferty was quoted in the Press last week, calling the legal challenge of the last election a “witch hunt”.  Excuse me?  The challenge is a legitimate legal action, undertaken to review the process and procedure during last November’s election.  It is an effort on behalf of the voters of Coeur d’ Alene and all of Kootenai County.  Yet this attorney, representing the County, is flinging inflammatory, juvenile names and accusations.

Last November we had an extremely close city council election in CdA, which prompted the call for a second look.  A “recount” of the ballots was one option.  But because, under Idaho State law, a recount can only consist of the same people putting the same ballots back through the same computerized counting machine, it was not the right choice.  No one questioned the computer’s tally of the ballots.  
What was, and still is, in question is the process of administering the election.  That option required filing a legal challenge, which was done and is supposed to open the process for careful review.  The City was in charge of the election but they contracted with the County to run the election. Therein lies the rub.  Challenging attorney Starr Kelso is trying to review the election documents but is running into roadblocks at every turn.

The City of CdA claims they know nothing, have nothing, control nothing and have no responsibility, even though it was their election.  The County says it was a City election so they can’t give out any information, even though, in a preliminary court hearing, the judge told them to do so.  And now, just a few days ago, the County attorney filed a legal motion to seal the records so no one can see anything.

Read that last line again: County attorney John Cafferty has asked the judge to SEAL the records from the last election so no one from the public can see them!  The County is posturing, claiming they must seal the files to protect the rights of the voters because someone might be able to identify a voter by looking at a ballot.  

That is impossible, according to the Secretary of State’s election expert, Ilene Goff, who told the Press that identifying a voter by looking at a ballot cannot be done.  And Deedie Beard, our just-retired County elections director, said the same thing during her pre-election demonstration, which I attended.  She said there’s absolutely no identifying information on the ballots at all; no name, no barcode, no numbering system, no markings of any kind. No voter can be identified by the ballot that they cast.  Mr. Cafferty and the County seem to be distorting the truth.
Starr’s current treatment by the City and County stand in total contrast to his experience in a similar election challenge down in Boise, almost 10 years ago.  Back then,  Ada County officials opened up all documents to Starr.  They had a county employee sit in a room with him while he reviewed the materials.  There was no obstruction and no name-calling. Ada County was confident their election was run well and they were more than willing to allow a thorough evaluation.  Not so in our neck of the woods. 

Let me clarify that Starr Kelso is simply asking the County to allow him to VIEW the documents, not to touch them or manipulate them in any way.  He is also not asking the County to make piles and piles of copies.  He just wants to look at the records of the last election.  So why then is the County distorting his request and obstructing this critical public process?

I have to tell you, dear readers, that this is the most important subject I have ever addressed in this newsletter.  It is the very underpinning of our representative form of government.  Fair and accurate elections are essential to every voter on every side of any issue.  If we do not have a reliable election system, how can we believe our vote means anything?  How can we trust the integrity of our government?

If you agree, please consider making your views known to our elected County Prosecutor, Barry McHugh.  He is John Cafferty’s boss.  Barry’s office phone number is 446-1800 and his email address is: bmchugh@kcgov.us 

But you have to contact him today, because the hearing to seal the records is tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2nd, at the County Courthouse, Court Room #7 at 1:30 pm. The hearing is open to the public.  I’ll be there.


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Mary Souza is a 22 year resident of CdA, local small business owner and former P&Z Commissioner.   Her opinions are her own.  For a free archive of past columns visit www.marysouzacda.com  Comments can be sent to marysouzacda@gmail.com.  Please visit the local issues web site www.OpenCdA.com for more discussion.

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