Sunday, October 06, 2002

By now we should all know that Forrester did exactly (in a legal sense) the same thing that Lautenberg has done.

Sam Heldman writes Howie Kurtz's apology and correction for him.

Mark Kleiman has some more.

Here's the relevant bit of the news:

Mr. Genova also uncovered a legal memorandum from Mr. Forrester's lawyer written in April, when State Senator Diane Allen, one of Mr. Forrester's opponents in the Republican primary, was trying to block him from taking the ballot position of James W. Treffinger. Mr. Treffinger, the Essex County executive, had resigned from the race because of scandal three days earlier, or 40 days before the primary.

Senator Allen maintained that moving Mr. Forrester's name to Mr. Treffinger's place on the ballot would come too late under Title 19 of the state election law, which sets a deadline of 51 days before an election for ballot substitutions. It is the same argument that Mr. Forrester's lawyer, Peter G. Sheridan, made before the State Supreme Court on Wednesday, opposing Mr. Lautenberg's placement on the ballot. The Democrats said that the deadline was merely a guideline.

In April, Mr. Sheridan read the law the way the Democrats do today.

"Strict compliance to statutory requirements and deadlines within Title 19," Mr. Sheridan wrote, "are set aside where such rights may be accommodated without significantly impinging upon the election process."

Josh Marshall presents the argument nicely:

Now, I had heard about this issue before but I hadn't realized that the comparison was that spot-on. It's the same 51 day deadline. The Times asked Sheridan about the seeming contradiction and he replied that the two cases were not similar because "no primary ballots had been issued" last April when the earlier controversy took place and today 1600 absentee ballots have already been sent out.

But this argument only shows that Sheridan is dull as well as hypocritical. He seems to be arguing that the relevant issue is not the inviolability of the deadline but the practical effect of allowing a change after the deadline takes place. He says that in April it was okay to make the change because no ballots had yet been printed and thus no harm -- nothing "significantly impinging upon the election process" -- could come from listing different names on them when they were printed. In other words, the deadline is simply an administrative guideline and if changes can still be made after that date passes, then they should be.