A lawyer for the Massachusetts Republican Party argued in Superior Court Friday morning that a judge should not get involved with GOP delegates’ disputed vote for governor because doing so would invite an open-door policy for every losing candidate. Rather than protecting the rights of a disappointed candidate to run, he argued, the judge should consider the rights of the delegates who voted at the convention and whose constitutional rights could be overruled by judicial interference. “There are strict rules that are in place and there are obligations to comply with those rules,” said MassGOP lawyer Louis M. Ciavarra. “The rough and tumble world of conventions and backroom politics and how it really happens in the real world is not the place for judicial interference,” Mr. Ciavarra added. But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins questioned Ciavarra’s interpretation, noting, “This case is framed as an alleged violation of the party’s own rules.”
A tea party candidate, Mark Fisher, asserts that the Republican State Committee violated its own rules at its party convention last month by counting “blank” ballots that were cast for neither him nor the winning nominee for governor, Charles Baker. Mr. Fisher, of Shrewsbury, who needed a certain percentage of the votes cast to get on the ballot, argued that including the blanks in the votes cast reduced the percentage of votes he received.
Party chairwoman Kirsten Hughes told the Globe after the convention that blanks should not count toward the total. Days later, she said she misspoke. “The question is whether a blank is a vote,” the judge said. “If the person who created the tally sheet says we don’t count blanks, isn’t that an indication?” He also noted that Robert’s Rules of Order calls for blanks to be considered abstentions, and he questioned whether delegates who affirmatively chose to vote “blank” could be disenfranchised if their votes were not counted. Mr. Ciavarra said that if the case goes to trial, he would have to present the delegates who cast “blank” votes.