Attorneys from Across the Country Travel to Columbus to Assist Election Contest Litigation
By Gail Jonas*
The legal battle over Ohio’s presidential vote is being fought by not only a dedicated legal team, but also by dedicated volunteers who believe that the voting process has been compromised. They have been willing at their own expense, to drop whatever they are doing, to go to Ohio during the holidays, and to do what it takes to see that we Americans can vote and have our vote counted without fraud and disenfranchisement. The following six people have given their time and heart to this cause.
Bonnie McFadden, formerly a deputy public defender, law professor from both the University of New Guinea and the University of Hawaii, and director of the Cambodia Defenders Project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, currently resides in Maui. Bonnie believes that Conyers’ Committee hearings have provided clear evidence of illegal election practices. “Democracy cannot survive without honest elections. The Ohio election fraud lawsuits are about saving our democratic form of government. There is nothing more important than that.”
Karen Peterson, an attorney who worked for more than a decade in legal services specializing in public benefits, consumer and family law and was a professor at both Cornell and the University of Minnesota law schools, is volunteering in Ohio because she believes that it is critically important that election irregularities are exposed to the light of day. “We will lose our democracy unless we are willing to fight for it. If we allow voter suppression and dirty tricks to go uncovered and unpunished, we should not be surprised if these tactics become more virulent in future elections.”
Lillian Ritt, formerly a research attorney working for the San Diego Superior Court and the 4th DCA Division 1 for more than twenty years, and part of the team researching election law for Al Gore, is in Ohio because she believes voting is critical to our democracy. “Voting has to be done openly and without any possibility of machine error and/or tampering. The problems in Ohio threaten this world, not just the United States. If they are not solved, then I consider this to be another stolen election by Bush without the courage of the Ukraine people.”
Steve Chaffin, an attorney in Ohio for twenty-four years, has worked in many ways to provide for those who have needed legal assistance and not been able to afford it. He has worked with those who are facing rising costs of health care and other quality of life issues. His interests and work have been to help those who are disenfranchised. Steve’s latest focus is on election and political issues. Volunteering for this legal battle is just one more way in which he is helping our country.
Judy McCann, a civil rights attorney from Santa Rosa, California, left for Ohio with one day’s notice promising her children she would be home for Christmas, even if it meant she would be on a plane back to help in Ohio on December, 26th. Judy expressed her concern for the integrity of the voting process. She spent Election Day in Florida monitoring the vote, learning first hand that our votes may be cast but not accurately counted. Judy has been asked by the legal team to take depositions and to travel to counties to collect the evidence of voting irregularities.
Melanie Braithwaite, an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, wants to volunteer for this election contest because of her concern for her children and grandchildren. “To me free expression and exchange of ideas, and the right to vote in free and fair elections are paramount moral and civic values to be protected at all costs. If it costs me some time and inconvenience to volunteer in this effort, then so be it. It is the price I pay to be an American citizen. I personally witnessed a moral outrage on election day. I am peculiarly in a position to take this one on, as I have personally nothing left to lose.”
*Gail Jonas is an attorney and mediator in Healdsburg, California