Party chairwoman not indicted on election fraud charge

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

May 22, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.
Updated May 23, 2014 at 12:23 a.m.

A Calhoun County grand jury decided Thursday not to indict the county's Democratic Party chairwoman of election fraud, according to a news release by Criminal District Attorney Dan Heard.

"I want to thank the community, my friends and people I don't even know for their thoughts and prayers," said the party chairwoman, Evelyn Burleson, 78. "It was a stressful time, and I'm ready to get on with my life."

Burleson was suspected of election fraud, a third-degree felony. During the primary, she voted twice - once during early voting and again on Election Day.

Burleson admitted that she mistakenly voted twice. The illegal vote was the main reason county clerk candidate Grace Gonzalez contested election results in district court.

The county clerk's race was close enough that one vote might have affected the outcome.

Gonzalez and Susan Riley tossed a coin to break a 630-vote tie that determined Riley would move on to the runoff election with Shelby Sebastian, who received 763 votes.

District Judge Pat Kelly, of Victoria, upheld the primary election results.

Investigations by the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Rangers showed no motive for the illegal vote nor any criminal intent, according to the news release.

Connie Hunt, vice chairwoman of the Calhoun County Republican Party, does not agree with the grand jury's verdict.

"She did it, and you can't just sweep it under the rug," Hunt said. "Evelyn controls the voting process on the Democratic side - she appoints the judges, checks the absentee ballots and controls all the paperwork and the early voting process."

Hunt said she intends to explore ways to make sure the incident remains on the record.

"I know she's almost 80 years old, but I'd be tarred and feathered if I did that," said Russell Cain, the Calhoun County Republican Party chairman. "They'd have no mercy on me - I guarantee you that."

Riley will face Sebastian in the runoff election Tuesday.



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