RI ACLU to Challenge Board of Elections Procedures in Tobon-San Bento Election Dispute

September 27, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

The RI ACLU today announced it has agreed to file a petition in the Rhode Island Supreme Court on behalf of state Representative candidate Carlos Tobon, whose purported one vote loss to incumbent William San Bento has been mired in controversy and confusion since election night. The petition will seek a review of the election results in light of multiple errors that have come to light about the conduct of that election.

Among other things, the questions that have been raised involve the counting, and the loss, of some mail ballots for this election; the repeated different vote tallies that occurred when ballots were fed through the electronic voting machines last week by the Board of Elections (BOE); and the Board’s refusal to manually conduct a recount of the ballots. The petition will be filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney Armando Batastini after he has reviewed a transcript of the hearing that took place last week at the BOE, which is still being prepared, and receives official confirmation that Tobon's request for a manual recount was denied.

Candidate Tobon said today: “Rhode Island election laws allow candidates to request a recount of the votes cast in an election when the difference in votes between the leading candidate and the runner-up is less than one percent of the total vote. That difference can often be tens or hundreds of votes. In the Democratic Primary election for RI House District 58, the difference between the two candidates is one single vote. Every vote should have equal value. Voters are entitled to transparency as to how their votes are counted. When our government officials refuse to make public and allow us to examine the voting materials and refuse to conduct a manual recount after it has been established that they cannot produce a definitive machine recount, they cast a shadow of doubt in the minds of the residents of our state.”

RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown noted that the ACLU has lobbied the past few years for legislation in the General Assembly that would increase transparency in the recount and voting auditing process. He said: “Some people have spent a lot of time the last few years complaining about the virtually non-existent problem of voter fraud. This particular election demonstrates the much more elemental truth: a loss and devaluing of votes occurs every election, but it has nothing to do with fraud. It has to do with bureaucratic errors, the fallibility of voting machines, and the lack of sufficient accountability and transparency in the voting recount process. We are hopeful this case can help change that.”

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