T H E—H I G H—C O U R T—O F—T H A E C I A
One of the primary functions of the High Court is the verification of election results, through the process laid out in Article III of LR49. This process is to ensure that all election results are faultless and can be trusted and relied upon by the Thaecian public.
During the presentation of the results of the January 2022 Midterm Election, a Citizen raised a concern that their vote was not properly counted. In the course of trying to address this concern, the High Court requested access to the original ballot form responses, as well as edit privileges on the spreadsheet where the ballots were counted in order to view the edit history kept by Google Sheets. Classically, the Justices were given view only access to the ballot counting spreadsheet. However, due to the nature of the claim made, the High Court felt that it was necessary to make deeper inquiries. The Electoral Commissioner, Ashlawn, denied this request on the grounds of caution, saying that he was worried that tampering could occur if he granted either request. Following this, the High Court ordered, with both Justices assenting, that the Electoral Commissioner grant access to the ballot form responses and edit privileges on the aforementioned spreadsheet. The Electoral Commissioner continued to deny access. After the High Court informed the Electoral Commissioner that his continued unwillingness to follow a Court Order constitutes Contempt of Court as defined in LR44, Ashlawn resigned the position of Electoral Commissioner and left Thaecia altogether. In addition Ashlawn destroyed the ballot counting spreadsheet, the Justices retained a backup copy.
This left the High Court with a few ways forward; continue to hold that the election results, as based on the copied sheet held by the High Court, were accurate and binding; recount the results with a modified version of the concerned Citizen’s ballot; or order a new election altogether.
The Court finds that the January 2022 Midterm Election is illegal under Article III of LR49, and orders that a new election be held by the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, with the same candidates and referendum options as the annulled election. In addition, the High Court is requiring that future Electoral Commissioners allow the Justices to have edit access to the ballot counting spreadsheet and original voting form responses prior to verification of the results.
LR49 sets out a few instances where the results may be overturned. This case does not fit neatly into any of these circumstances. However, we found that ordering a new election was the most reasonable and fair course of action.
Addressing the first path, continuing to hold that the election results were verified, we felt that this would leave a fundamental doubt in the minds of Thaecians, and overall would not be ideal given that the former Electoral Commissioner resigned in suspicious circumstances. Due to these circumstances, the Court is unable to declare, with reasonable confidence, that the election results presented by the former Electoral Commissioner were true and accurate.
The second path is one of considerable danger. If this Court set the precedent that ballots may be changed after the election based on nothing more than recollection, the floodgates would be opened for unscrupulous actors to abuse said system to attempt to change the results after they are presented. For that reason, and the lack of basis in law, this course of action was decided against.
Finally, declaring the election results illegal under LR49 and ordering a new election. LR49 only gives the High Court the power to deem results illegal if one of the following scenarios occur:
1. Electoral fraud as defined by prospective Thaecian laws.
2. A candidate loses their citizenship status through the course of the election.
3. A voter that does not meet citizenship requirements casts a ballot during the course of the election.
4. A voter loses their citizenship during the election after having already voted.
5. The Electoral Commissioner violated any section of this law.
6. A mistake by the Electoral Commissioner, such as the counting or transferring of votes, with the possibility of changing electoral results.
As the law violated by the Electoral Commissioner was not in LR49 but rather in LR44, the Justices are left with an impasse if purely using the text found in Article III of LR49. However, as previously articulated, the Justices find the potential of going the way of the other courses of action more repugnant than the potential of going down this path. Therefore, the Justices conclude that in order to guarantee timely, impartial elections as set out in Article I of LR49 and due process to voting Citizens, in the absence of clarifying statute or prior case law, election results should only be verified if the Justices have reasonable confidence that the results presented are true and accurate. This Court lacks said confidence.
Thrid, the Court had to consider whether the Court’s power to call for a new election as defined in Section III, Article III of LR49 meant that the election would start over with a new candidacy declaration period or if the voting would just be rerun with the candidates that already stood. Either option has support in the accepted meaning of statues. For example, in Article II of the Constitution, it has been typically assumed and the operational practice has been that the exemption to the right to vote when a resident becomes a Citizen during an election refers to the period that voting is open, while in Article VIII the Electoral Commissioner is given the task of organizing elections, which is taken to mean the whole schedule and process of running an election. In the end, the Court finds that it is most practical, speedy, and fair to rerun the voting period without a new candidacy declaration period. The Court has been given no reason to suspect that the candidacy declaration period or campaign period was in any way flawed. In addition, the Court believes that the option that provides as little interruption to the democratic institutions of Thaecia is preferable, and that option is to rerun the voting period with the same candidates and referendum options.
As for the requirement that future Electoral Commissioners allow the Justices to have edit access to the ballot counting spreadsheet and original voting form responses upon request of any one Justice, we believe it to be a common sense measure to preempt any situation such as this one from developing once more. If future Justices can be more confident that the election results were true and accurate as presented before any controversy arises, it is a benefit to Thaecian democracy.
Finally, the Court finds that a general review of LR49 may be prudent to negate any further failings due to lack of specificity or potential for abuse, while continuing to provide for a voting method that is accessible, private, and fair.