From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 50 - December 13, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Court denies Smith

by Alecia Warren

The Wyoming Supreme Court issued an opinion on Monday on the Petition for Writ of Review in the case of David M. Smith v. Robert John Brito, Jr.

The case was an appeal that Smith requested over a District Court decision this year annulling his election last summer to the Pinedale Town Council, on the basis that he wasn’t a registered voter at the time.

Although the Town of Pinedale supported Smith’s defense, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court’s decision. The ruling read that despite “the will of the majority of the people who voted for Mr. Smith in the election in Pinedale,” the fact that Smith hadn’t been a registered voter “is not an inconsequential irregularity that can be judicially ignored.”

Town attorney Ed Wood, who defended Smith on a pro bono basis, said he felt naturally disappointed by the ruling, but he trusts the Supreme Court as a final authority. “I was having a real problem all the way through it, setting aside the electors’ decision (to elect Smith), but (the Supreme Court) stated pretty clearly that ‘this is the law,’ so that’s the way it is,” Wood said.

Robert Brito filed a civil action lawsuit in May, 2006, contending that Smith wasn’t a qualified elector of the Town of Pinedale because he wasn’t a registered voter when he requested his name be on the election ballot last April.

Wood said that Smith wasn’t aware of this fact when he applied for the ballot, which the Town Clerk didn’t check at the time. Although all candidates were registered voters on the day of the election, Wyoming statutes require a candidate to be registered the day of application for election.

The Town of Pinedale had hoped to save Smith’s position on the council by pointing out Smith’s attempt to remedy his mistake as soon as he learned of it on the day of the election, when he immediately registered to vote.

“We thought we had a reasonable argument both at the District Court level and the Supreme Court level, and they ruled otherwise,” Wood said.

Brito, who said he learned about Smith’s voting status from friends who were in line to register the day of the election at the county offices, said he was actually the one who told Smith about the mistake on the day of the election, but didn’t remember Smith as willing to correct the situation.

“I went to Dave Smith and I asked him, ‘don’t do this, you’re wrong,’ and he told me to go to hell,” Brito said Wednesday.

Dave Smith did not reply to messages left Wednesday.

District Court Judge Norman E. Young declared Smith off the council this March. Because more than one qualified candidate ran for the council, the election itself wasn’t declared null and void. Instead, the qualifying candidate with the next highest number of votes — David Hohl, with 108 votes — was declared as Smith’s replacement.

Ironically, Dave Smith had received 183 official votes in the election, more than any other candidate. Brito, who also ran for council, placed fifth and was not elected.

Pinedale Mayor Stephen Smith said he is glad the issue is finally resolved. “The matter is settled, and we look forward to moving ahead and continuing on with the business of caring for our town,” the mayor said.

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