2004 Talossa v. Furxhéir (UC)
|The Cort Pü Inalt|
Din el Cort Pü Inalt
GOVERNMENT OF TALOSSA
|MARTÌ-PÁIR FURXHÉIR, SECRETARY OF STATE|
|18 May 2004/XXV|
Brief of the ruling
Opinion of the Court delivered by
|Justice Metáiriâ and Justice Velméir|
On or about April 29th, 2004/XXV, the Secretary of State of the Kingdom of Talossa, Martì-Páir Furxhéir, submitted to the Talossan people his rules and regulations for the upcoming general election. On May 14th, 2004/XXV, Attorney General R. Ben Madison filed a complaint against the Secretary of State for breach of a number of provisions in the Organic Law.
The Cort has chosen to deal with each issue independently, using the original complaint from the Attorney General as our guide.
This Decision is issued by the Uppermost Cort as a further review of the Secretary of State’s actions, after our decision on the paper ballot issue in 2004-1, as well as the organicity of those actions.
1. Dismissal of the Deputy Secretary of State
The Crown has argued that, while the Secretary of State does have the ability to appoint and dismiss a Deputy Secretary of State on a whim (OL, Article IX, Section 1), this provision is trumped by the 7th Covenant, which says all persons accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty.
The Cort finds the legal argument intriguing indeed. In order to answer this question, we first turn to the Org Law, which tells us in Article XVI, Section 5 that, “Where there is an exact precedent, a court shall rule according to law. Where there is no exact precedent, a court will make a rule to fit the case, either by reinterpreting an old rule (statutory or otherwise) or by applying what it considers principles of justice, consistent with the Covenants of Rights and Freedoms.” There is no exact precedent in this case, so consistent with the Covenants of Rights and Freedoms, we must utilize generally accepted principles of Anglo-American law.
In the United States, many of the states have employment laws which have been called, “at will.” The term refers to laws which say that both the employee and the employer have an “at will” agreement for the employment. If either party chooses to end the relationship, for any reason, they may do so. If the boss doesn’t like the fact that an employee is wearing the color green, they can fire them on the spot, and there is no recourse.
Discrimination laws trump this “at will” system, however. An employee can be fired for wearing green, but they cannot be fired for any federally or state protected class (i.e., race, color, gender, national origin, physical disability, sexual preference, etc.). If an employee can prove they were fired for one of these reasons, the employer is liable.
While the DSoS position is not an employment situation, and the SoS is a political appointee, we believe that the same basic rules apply. The SoS can hire and fire a DSoS on a whim (or at will), except in the case of discrimination or some other legally binding reason, especially as outlined in the 4th Covenant.
Now that we have interpreted the law to say that there are restrictions on the ability of the SoS to hire and fire the DSoS, the question is, was the law broken.
The Crown argues that the DSoS was fired because of allegations of voter fraud. Because there was never a case brought on this basis, and because the DSoS never admitted to any fraudulent activity, the Crown believes that the SoS was fired in violation of the 7th Covenant, that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
After reviewing the evidence presented to the Cort, and the response from the defendant, the Cort finds that while the Crown has created the grounds for declaring the firing inorganic, the Crown has failed to prove its case that the firing was based on the accusations of voter fraud.
While it appears from clipped e-mail that the SoS felt concerns over voter fraud were a good reason for not having a DSoS, there was nothing saying that he would get rid of the current DSoS over accusations of voter fraud. Without specific evidence to this effect, the Cort has no recourse but the find for the defendant on this issue.
2. Disenfranchisement of Voters: Hand-written ballots
The Crown argues that the rules put into place for accepting Hand-Written ballots are meant to prevent voters from being able to cast ballots, thereby disenfranchising them.
While some on the Cort are sympathetic to this argument, the Cort has previously ruled that the SoS has broad leeway in forming voting rules. The Cort will be glad to hear cases brought by voters in which a citizen feels they were disenfranchised by these rules, but such a case would have to clearly prove that the person was, even with some effort, unable to vote in the election because of these rules.
As it happens, we have no evidence of such a citizen being disenfranchised, and feel that the Crown was unable to prove that disenfranchisement would occur if the rules are followed.
We find for the defense.
3. Disenfranchisement of Voters: On-line voting
The Cort finds that, as the defense has pointed out, the question is moot. The only example used to prove this point is the experience of Francesco Felici. Felici’s vote has now been made official by the SoS, after Felici followed the rules as presented by the SoS.
Again, while there is a difference of opinion on the Cort as to these rules, there is no difference of opinion currently on their organicity. Without other examples to show disenfranchisement, the Cort finds for the defense.
However, the Cort is concerned about a possible problem in the interpretation of the rules. It appears from testimony that the rules dictate a need to get a PIN number before the start of the election, yet while Felici’s attempt at voting was before the start of the election, it appears he was denied a PIN number. Because the vote is now counted, we will not officially weigh in on this, except to say that given our reading of the rules, one can request a PIN number up to the moment the election starts. A PIN number cannot be denied if one is requested before the election, even immediately before the election.
4. a. Disenfranchisement of Voters: “Validation” of Votes
We find that the Crown’s contention that validating the vote counts as a second vote is incorrect. A second vote would mean that two votes would be counted, when only one is counted.
While the Org Law says nothing about verifying the vote, it is clear that if there was a contested vote, it would have to be verified, and that verification would be done by the SoS. In this year’s election, the SoS has simply decided to contest every vote, verifying them each. This may not be the preferred manner in which to conduct an election, but it is organic.
Additionally, while there was no arguments on this front, the Cort has noticed a discrepancy between the Org Law and the election rules. The election rules dictate that votes which are postmarked by the end of the election will be counted. However, the law (OG, Article VII, Section 8) specifically says votes received after the deadline, even if postmarked before, are invalid. Therefore, the Cort finds that this election rule is inorganic, and omits it from this and all future elections.
4. b. “Validation” of votes and allegations of vote fraud
The Cort finds that, while the argument from the Crown that the election rules are a violation of the 7th Covenant is an interesting one, we do not believe that the Corwn has proven its case. No evidence has been presented that shows the SoS believes every vote to be fraudulent.
While the defense cites case law to refute this point, the Cort finds the defense argument to not be germane. The Crown’s argument is that one cannot presume all are guilty, while the defense contends that there are single examples of voter fraud that have been investigated in the past.
Without evidence to show that there is a presumption of guilt on the part of every Talsosan, the Cort cannot find for the Crown.
In addition, this ruling should in no way be used as precedent in the future. The Cort is not finding that assumption of guilt on the part of everyone means the action is inorganic. We are simply stating there is a lack of evidence to rule on this issue today, and will take up the case again on its merits if evidence should surface in the future.
5. Violations of Timing Law
There are two issues in this argument. The first being that the SoS violated Article VII, Section 5 of the Organic Law by issuing rules well after the 14 day period passed.
The Cort finds that, while several postings were issued, there is no evidence of new rules in the subsequent messages either in the Crowns arguments or in our research. It appears that subsequent e-mails were clarifying points.
The notable exception to this is the rules on paper ballots. These rules were issued after the Cort ruling, which came after the 14 day period. The SoS issued these rules in response to the Cort decision, and therefore the 14 day rule does not apply.
The second issue is the firing of the DSoS after the 14 day deadline. While the defense failed to address this point in its response, the Cort still finds no fault on the part of the SoS. It is the belief of the Cort that the rules for the election are different from who is involved in counting the election. The SoS can change employees at any time (under our previously stated guidelines), without fear of violating the Org Law provisions in Article VII, Section 5.
6. Lack of Transparency
The Cort finds for the defense. While many Talossans are not on Witt, it is an acceptable place to post information to meet election laws. This would be no different that meeting Public Access laws by placing government information in a newspaper of record in the United States or Canada.
However, we would suggest that for domestic tranquility, the SoS send this information our via e-mail in the future. This will ensure no one is missed. Failure to comply with this suggestion is not a violation of Cort order or the Org Law.
The Crown has not proven to the satisfaction of the Cort that a violation has occurred in any of the areas which have been addressed. While a minor violation was found on the acceptance of ballots, this was not part of the Crown’s arguments, and we do not believe the violation rises to the level of a penalty of removal.
Therefore, the Cort find for the defendant on all counts. If the defendant is found to accept any votes after the end of the election, regardless of postmark, the defendant will be both in violation of Cort order and the Org Law, and the Cort will address that violation accordingly.
The Cort dismisses this case without prejudice. While the Crown cannot bring charges on these specific issues up again, the Crown can certainly bring new charges if new evidence is found that has not been previously presented. The Cort is not required to hear such a case, but will take the filing under advisement, and decide whether or not to hear the case.
All orders of the Cort in this matter take effect immediately. God save Talossa, God save the King, and God save this righteous Uppermost Cort.
Dated this 18th day of May, 2004
Senior Justice John Jahn
Justice Ken Oplinger