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Victoria council member's objections postpone recount of election

By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
May 21, 2012 at 12:21 a.m.
Updated May 22, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.


WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Emett Alvarez filed eight complaints, the city responded to three. Here are the specific complaints, the relevant election codes and Rangel's petition defects.

•  ALVAREZ'S COMPLAINT: Misidentified election precincts

• ELECTION CODE SEC. 212.001 (5): Identify election precincts for which recount is requested, and method of voting

• RANGEL'S PETITION: Identified seven precincts and early voting, but misidentified Precinct 2 as Precinct 1 Victoria County Courthouse

• ALVAREZ'S COMPLAINT: Cashier's check from Rangel is not made payable to the recount coordinator

• ELECTION CODE SEC. 212.111: The deposit must be in the form of cash, cashier's check, or money order made payable to the recount coordinator and must accompany the petition.

• RANGEL'S PETITION: Made the check payable to City of Victoria

• ALVAREZ'S COMPLAINT: Rangel did not ask for electronic voting for the early votes to be recounted, but for paper ballots and mail-in voting.

• ELECTION CODE SEC. 212.136 (B) AND (E): If the petitioner in which a voting system was used specifies requests a recount of only the write-in votes or only a recount of the voting system votes, the votes not requested are excluded from the recount unless an objection to the exclusion is made ... In a precinct where voting system votes are excluded from a recount, the vote count entered on the original precinct election returns for the excluded votes shall be treated as the count for those votes for the purposes of the recount.

• RANGEL'S PETITION: Identified early voting at the county elections office, paper ballot and mail-in voting. It did not specify in-person early voting, and may additionally list electronic voting for early voting.

SEE FOR YOURSELF:

Election officials postponed the recount of a 383-380 vote for the District 1 Victoria City Council seat until later this week.

Councilman Emett Alvarez, who won the seat by a three-vote margin, raised objections Sunday about former Councilwoman Denise Rangel's recount request before the three-person counting committee could set to its task Monday.

Alvarez said Rangel's request does not comply with Texas Election Code requirements on eight counts, including a typo that named Victoria County Courthouse Precinct 1 instead of Precinct 2, and writing her $800 recount deposit to the City of Victoria instead of Mayor Will Armstrong, the election administrator.

The recount is postponed to give the city time to review Alvarez's complaints, and Rangel time to revise her request.

"It's not nitpicky, I'm just going by what the code says," Alvarez said. "I believe the clock has ended."

Rangel submitted her petition at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 16. The mayor approved her request Thursday.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz reviewed Rangel's petition and said there was no missing information, but there was an excusable typo.

"Out of an abundance of respect for both candidates in the election and the electoral process as a whole, the mayor has chosen to agree with Emett that those areas that he's addressing need to be fixed," Gwosdz said.

Gwosdz said only three of Alvarez's eight objections were relevant: the payee on the deposit was not written to the mayor, a typo that identifies the courthouse as the Precinct 1 voting location, and that Rangel did not include electronic voting in the recount.

His complaints also included missing time stamps, signatures, description of defects and no note approval status.

Alvarez maintained that he wants protocol correctly followed, but would not say whether the name on a check was more important than the election process. He said her petition should be rejected.

"All windows were closed for amendments," he said. "What's important is that we follow the law ... It's not make it up as you go."

Gwosdz said the mayor, as recount coordinator and supervisor, can pull his approval and return the petition for revision at any time.

Armstrong said he is "not sure what Mr. Alvarez wishes to accomplish."

"I am determined that we'll do absolutely everything possible to perfect the petition submitted by Ms. Rangel," he said. "We definitely will have a recount."

Rangel said she will file an amended petition by Wednesday.

"I have had an enormous amount of phone calls and support from people who support me in my endeavors to seek a recount," she said. "I am just doing what I believe and what my supporters believe is right."

Alvarez said he too is receiving support for objecting to Rangel's petition.

"We had a fair election, now I want a fair recount," he said. "If the recount changes the outcome of this election, I don't have a problem with it, but some voters may, especially if the laws aren't followed."

Alvarez alluded to potential lawsuits or criminal voter fraud charges if the laws or voter intent was not followed.

"That ballot box is closed and triple-locked for a reason," he said. "When you start opening those boxes, it gets really sensitive in how you handle those ballots and maintain the integrity of those ballots because that could take you down another road you don't want to go down."

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