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Posts published in “Day: July 29, 2010”

The unlocking

Election nights are always a little fun (at least, for those of us watching): An unveiling of what actually happens. And it happens, you might say (metaphorically), as elections officials unlock the ballot boxes.

Tomorrow night will be something like that for Oregon's Independent Party. Member of the party have been voting, electronically - will this become commonplace in government-run elections in years to come? - and that phase will wrap up tomorrow at 5 p.m. Members get to choose which candidates should receive the party's endorsement, and there are a lot of candidates to choose from. And a good many Independent members, probably over 50,000. It may be enough to matter in close races.

In an e-mail release, the party reports:

"We expect to have representatives of the Secretary of State and of several county elections offices present at the unlocking," said party chair Linda Williams. "The press is also welcome to observe this conclusion of the first online election in Oregon history."

The outcomes for most of the 60 races for public office (Governor, U.S. Representative, State Senator, and State Representative) will be immediately apparent. The outcomes for some races, however, may depend upon reading and tallying the write-in votes.

The Independent Party is conducting the first-ever Oregon minor party primary election open to every member of the party and the first-ever party election conducted through internet voting. This election includes 86 candidates seeking the Independent Party nomination for 60 different offices.

We'll keep watch.

Crossing the threat threshold

court

When it is jus talking trash, when is it a real threat? The difference isn't small: One may be an annoyance, and the other a crime and possibly an alert to imminent harm. It's a legal question with absolutely practical applications.

The issue came up in Washington v. Glen Arthur Schaler, decided today by the Washington Supreme Court.

The law itself isn't of terrific help here. Washington law says a threat - this being a form of "unprotected speech" - is "a statement made in a context or under such circumstances wherein a reasonable person would foresee that the statement would be interpreted as a serious expression of intention to inflict bodily harm upon or to take the life of another person." Sorry, that doesn't allow for a really objective standard - you and I, reasonable persons both, may disagree about whether a statement was a threat, an offand or angry statement, or even a joke.

To an extent, the Supreme Court punted on this one. It found error in the way a jury was instructed, keeping the case alive. What it said by way of clarifying what a threat was is this: "The speaker of a "true threat" need not actually intend to carry it out. It is enough that a reasonable speaker would foresee that the threat would be considered serious. Importantly, only threats that are "true" may be proscribed. The First Amendment prohibits the State from criminalizing communications that bear the wording of threats but which are in fact merely jokes, idle talk, or hyperbole."

The whole story of the Schaler case makes for a fine case study of divining the fuzzy lines in this area. Its retelling in the court's decision follows on the jump. (more…)