Friday, April 07, 2006

TEXAS: Election Results Challenged by Former TX Supreme Court Justice!

Judicial candidate files challenge
By Anna M. Tinsley
Star-Telegram Staff Writer; April 6, 2006


Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith has filed a formal election challenge to determine whether primary election problems in at least 11 counties across the state - including Tarrant County - affected his bid for the state's highest civil court.

Smith lost to incumbent Justice Don Willett in his bid for Texas Supreme Court Place 2 by about 6,000 votes, according to results posted on the Texas secretary of state's Web site.

"I have been unable to get a full and accurate response from government agencies without filing a lawsuit," Smith said in a written statement to the Star-Telegram.

"The bottom line is this: Every candidate has a right to know that all the votes were counted correctly," he said. "We have good reason to believe that the vote total is incorrect, and we believe that the election must not be finally decided until all the votes are correctly counted."

Smith's petition, filed in Travis County's 250th District Court, sets off the formal process for contesting an election and seeks access to inspect election records in the possession of the Republican Party of Texas, Tarrant County and Gregg County, which includes Longview.

Last month, Smith's staff formally requested detailed election data from Tarrant County under the state's public information law, including the audit trail, optical scan ballots and precinct-by-precinct results.

They apparently received some of the information they requested, officials said. Gayle Hamilton, Tarrant County interim elections administrator, could not be reached to comment Wednesday afternoon.

In Tarrant County, a computer programming error counted some votes cast in the March 7 primary multiple times and boosted the final tally in both party primaries by as much as 100,000 votes.

Hart InterCivic, the company that made the equipment and wrote the software, said that a procedural error led to inflated counts when merging totals from early voting, absentee-by-mail voting and election-day voting into one report on election night.

Local election officials say they have fixed the glitches and corrected problems with voting tallies.

"If the counting error in Tarrant County had not occurred, it is quite likely we would not have filed an election contest," said David Rogers, a spokesman for Smith. "We believe, however, that there may have been mistakes or fraud in places other than Tarrant County.

"The Tarrant County irregularities prompted us to look closely at possible problems in other areas of the state," he said. "We are concerned about problems in at least 11 counties across the state."

The court petition states that Smith believes that the final tally does not include legal votes cast for Smith in Armstrong, Cass, Childress, Dimmit, Kent, Limestone and Lynn counties. It also says that the final tally includes illegal votes for Willett in Galveston, Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties and does not include legal votes for Smith in Gregg, Tarrant and Winkler counties.

The document states that Smith wants to review election results and have an expedited hearing on the issue.
Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610
atinsley@star-telegram.com

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