“The board of official canvassers . . . is liable to err in overestimating its powers.”

In light of the most recent election certification dispute in Georgia that Rick H. linked to earlier this week, here’s a relevant quotation from the Ruling Case Law (1915)–which suggests there is nothing new under the sun:

The board of official canvassers to whom the boards of election of the several divisions return their certificate showing the number of votes cast for each candidate, is liable to err in overestimating its powers. Whenever it is suggested that illegal votes have been received or that there were other fraudulent practices at the election, it is apt to imagine that it is its duty to inquire into these alleged frauds and to decide on the legality of the votes. Its duty, however, is almost wholly ministerial—to take the returns as made from the different voting precincts, add them up, and declare the result. Questions of illegal voting and fraudulent practices are passed on by another tribunal. The canvassers are to be satisfied of the genuineness of the returns, that is, that the papers presented to them are not forged and spurious, that they are returns, and are signed by the proper officers; but when so satisfied they may not reject any returns because of informalities in them or because of illegal and fraudulent practices in the election. The simple purpose and duty of the canvassing board is to ascertain and declare the apparent result of the voting. All other questions are to be tried before the court or other tribunal for contesting elections or in quo warranto proceedings. And so such a board cannot set up the illegality of the election or of the votes cast thereat as ground for resisting mandamus brought to compel it to perform its duty and canvass the returns, and the court has no jurisdiction to grant an order to have the ballot boxes placed at the disposal of the board’s counsel, for the purpose of enabling it to plead properly to the petition for mandamus. . . .

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