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Arends on Failed Ballot Challenge: Voters Deserve Perfection in Electoral Process

Joel Arends, screen cap, KELO TV, 2014.04.07
Voters deserve perfection in elections, says Joel Arends.

The failed challenge to the Spellerberg pool vote in Sioux Falls offers some useful statements about the sanctity of the electoral process. Evidently everybody missed the fact that the municipal ballot measure had a typo, listing the pool build deadline as December 15 instead of December 31, 2015. Citizens represented by attorney Joel Arends went to court yesterday asking the city to either stop today's election or rush-print new ballots with the correct date. Judge Susan Sabers said the typo is an immaterial error in ballot text not required by law. The incorrect ballots remain in effect, and the public vote goes on.

Arends says the court got it wrong and has weakened the integrity of the election process statewide:

Arends says the government has to be held to a higher standard, especially when an election is on the line.

“We are opening a Pandora's Box in this state. What we're saying is, excusable neglect will be allowed to serve as an excuse for changing the dates on petitions and ballots,” said Arends [Jeff Rusack, "Pool Group Ballot Challenge Denied by Court," KDLT, 2014.04.07].

But reprinting ballots and/or rescheduling an election costs money, doesn't it? Did Arends and his clients really want to cost the city $60,000 to reschedule the election?

"The inconvenience to the city pales in comparison to the inconvenience of the integrity of our elections," Arends said [Ben Dunsmoor, "Judge Denies Outdoor Pool Legal Action," KELO TV, 2014.04.07].

Arends says that, even in failure, his group's challenge represents a valuable part of democracy:

Attorney Joel Arends, who represented Save Spellerberg, says Monday's proceeding is the perfect example of the right people have to challenge any wrong-doings they may notice.

...He also points out that the voters deserve perfection when it comes to elections, even when dealing with a typographical error.

"I think the City of Sioux Falls is on notice now that people aren't just going to take these things lying down. They're going to take to the courts, they're going to take to the media and say 'Look folks, we expect more,'" Arends said [Jared Ransom, "Spellerberg Court Ruling Favors City of Sioux Falls," KELO TV, 2014.04.07].

Arends is absolutely right. Voters deserve perfection when it comes to all aspects of the electoral process, from signing petitions to watchdogging the use of campaign funds to counting every vote. Citizens who challenge errors and violations on petitions and ballots are true patriots, fighting for the integrity of the law and democracy.


  1. owen reitzel 2014.04.08

    "Arends is absolutely right. Voters deserve perfection when it comes to all aspects of the electoral process, from signing petitions to watchdogging the use of campaign funds to counting every vote. Citizens who challenge errors and violations on petitions and ballots are true patriots, fighting for the integrity of the law and democracy."

    I'm assuming there is no sarcasm there Cory. ;)
    Maybe Arends should look in his own backyard first. But that's stating the obvious.

  2. Grainofsalt 2014.04.08

    Wow, Joel Arends calling for total perfection from others while his own main clients (Bos/Haber Gang) aren't held accountable for outrageous lies. I guess he thinks it's OK to have different rules for different people.

  3. Dave 2014.04.08

    "The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates."
    --David Foster Wallace

  4. Dave Baumeister 2014.04.08

    For an attorney, this is just all a matter of who is paying the bills, but for an advocate to be making contradictory statements about similar cases only a few days apart, seriously undermines his credibility. But his results highlight what I have sen for a long time, conspiracy theoris (albeit fun) put aside, judges and other public officials do not like messing with ballots, petitions or elections. If things seem resonable, they are going to let the voting process run its course, whether right or wrong. But Cory actually "won" his challenge. Bosworth should have never been worried and should have let the challenge come and go. Instead, she has now been shown with her posts and videos to have the temperment (and video editing capabilities) of a 7-year-old. Doesn't matter what the truth is, people will ask, "Were her actions done as a last ditch effort to muddy the messenger because she did something wrong?" After all, why would a person who had done nothing wrong let what a journalist says bother her?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.04.08

    I appreciate my intelligent readers' literary sensitivity to irony.

  6. Tim 2014.04.08

    From what I have seen, even on the national level, this is standard procedure for republicans. They rant and rave about the rules of all sorts of things, until those rules apply to them or something they have done, then the spin and mudslinging begin.

  7. Susan 2014.04.08

    The judge ruled correctly. The irony is that they were arguing about the deadline to finish building an outdoor pool - so it could remain closed until Memorial day weekend of 2016. Rather supports the arguments of the indoor pool group that the City needs a pool open year round. Taxpayers wouldn't have to finish constructing the pool and then waiting practically 5 months before using the newly built facility.

  8. mhs 2014.04.08

    No, Arends is absolutely not right. All the judicial decisions in the last 50 years or so that give great deference to allowing voting to go forward are linked to Lyndon Johnson's voting rights act. Prior to '65, southern election officials routinely used minor technical points to disqualify African-American, candidates, voters, initiative, etc.

    The VRA outlawed many such practices and the courts since have wised up to the fact that the long recognized tenant that elections should go forward trump local technical requirements.

    Judge Saber's ruling here may not be what the anti-pool folks wanted, but, it protects the legally inshrined importance of the people getting their say, something that was usually not the case, even in very recent American history.

  9. Craig 2014.04.08

    The entire argument was a gigantic waste of time and would have no impact upon the final vote. The final vote is what matters isn't it? If there was an error that had actual meaning and could sway a vote I'd support such a challenge and I'd support the (selective) outrage, but in my view the difference between December 15th and December 31st is meaningless when you examine the remainder of the stipulations included in that text.

    Meanwhile, over at SouthDacola you have what borders upon an incoherent rant trying to turn a trivial point into the moral equivalent of a modern day poll tax. I'm waiting to see if Bruce's manifesto is released in paperback or hardcover. Rather odd this election day is the very day they decide to remove the option to comment over there - but I saw that coming based upon their predictions for the ballot issues and their preferred candidates, and how they started moderating comments rather than allowing them to be posted immediately (which in the blogging world is pretty much begging people to remain quiet).

    Clearly there wasn't going to be much to cheer about, so they made a preemptive strike against anyone who would attempt to tell them "I told you so". Sad really.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.04.08

    (Dang—you're right, Craig. South Dacola's comment box is down. Any idea what happened?)

  11. Craig 2014.04.08

    Scott says he is making changes - and one of those is to shut off commenting. I'm not sure he has plans to bring it back in his new format or not... but time will tell.

    Seems like an odd day to shut down commenting when election day is bound to be one of the days everyone has something to say... but that was his choice.

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