Posts by Christine Welborn

Midland’s Unconstitutional Recall Restrictions

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The bar for a recall election should be reasonably high, but the Midland City Charter requires the violation of constitutional rights. It violates the secret ballot by requiring petition signers to reveal their choice at the ballot box.

Article VI of the Midland City Charter states:

This means that the recall petition must have been signed by 20% of qualified voters in the City of Midland and half of those signatures must belong to people who signed an affidavit stating they voted for the person who is being recalled. There are several problems with these requirements, the most egregious being the violation of civil rights.

First of all, American citizens have the right to a secret ballot. These voters should not have to reveal their choice at the ballot box. If a mayor or city council member’s offenses have risen to the level of recall in the eyes of the citizens, why do the signatures, and therefore voices, of the people who voted for the offending individual get to carry more weight? 

For example, in November of 2019 Midland elected two city council members, one of which was in District 4. At the time there were 18,417 eligible voters in the district. Therefore, a recall petition would require 3,683 signatures and 1,842 of those voters must have signed affidavits that they voted for the victor. That candidate may have won 56% of the vote, but only 15% of the electorate cast a vote for her. That leaves 85% of Midland with only half a voice because the 15% have the other half by statute.

Second, this statue results in one individual’s vote carrying more weight and necessarily power. This is true of ballots cast by citizens for the target of a recall effort compared to citizen’s cast ballots and Midlanders who may not have voted but are negatively impacted to the degree that they would sign a recall petition.

The Midland recall process is not only unconstitutional, but it is virtually insurmountable. It is merely an illusion of safeguarding the public trust. It may as well not be there at all. That would at least be a more honest and transparent approach. Citizens of Midland should demand more from their representatives.

Interim Hearing

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Today, the Texas House Elections Committee held a hearing in Austin to discuss interim charges.

Issued by lame-duck Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen, to his similarly situated committee chairs, this hearing and subsequent hearings are likely to be little more than going through the motions.

Interim charges issued by Bonnen followed his announcement that he would not seek reelection, following him and his consultants butt fumbling of public relations after the release of a recording of the Speaker making derogatory comments about fellow members and offering a quid pro quo to conservative leader Michael Quinn Sullivan.

The committee took invited testimony from Keith Ingram, Secretary of State Director of Elections, and Chris Davis, representing the Texas Association of Elections Administrators. The hearing, when boiled down, amounted to oversight of legislation passed during the 2019 legislative session.

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Clearing Up Confusion in Midland

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The Midland Reporter-Telegram published a story intending to answer frequently asked questions about the Midland ISD bond election. A few of those answers were incomplete or inaccurate.

“Did the recount have to be canvassed on Nov. 26?”

No. Section 213.057 of the Election Code does state that the canvass should take place “as soon as practicable” but it goes on to say, “after completion of the recount.” We would argue that with 820 votes missing, the recount was not complete. MISD could have pressed harder on the Elections Department to locate the missing ballots before the canvass. Would MISD have accepted such a discrepancy if the outcome had been the failure of the bond? 

“Will finding these votes change the outcome of the bond?”

It is true that finding the votes will not change the outcome. However, the article is incorrect when it states, “the results, however, can be contested, and that could change the outcome.” This is a common misconception. An election contest challenges the election not the outcome. The judge’s decision is whether or not to void the entire election, not to do another recount. 

“What will happen next? Will a revote take place?”

Better Bond for Midland and We Choose Our Future will file and have filed, respectively, election contests. However, the similarities end there. Both sides do not agree that there will not be a revote. We Choose Our Future incorrectly assumes the contest will be yet another recount. Better Bond for Midland is calling for a voided election.

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Midland ISD Bond Fight: New Contest Filing

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Christine Foreman and David Joyner of the pro-bond We Choose Our Future PAC have filed a petition for an election contest in the Midland ISD Bond Election that has been fraught with errors and controversy. Their filing came the same day Midland County Elections opened a recently discovered ballot box revealing 836 ballots that were not counted in the recount. Their petition calls for “a manual recount to ensure all legal ballots cast in this election are counted and determine the true outcome thereof.” This is problematic in two ways.

First of all, in a press conference, Christine Foreman herself questioned the chain of custody for the newly discovered ballot box. Why would she, or anyone, want those ballots counted if they could have been compromised? Secondly, contests are not meant to result in manual recounts. There has already been a recount. That ship has sailed. In the case of a bond election, a true election contest would call for a judge to declare the entire election void. Midland ISD would then have to start again and hold another election if it wanted to continue to pursue the bond. 

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More Missing Votes and a Mystery Box in Midland

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Midland County officials seem determined for Midland voters to lose complete faith in the integrity of their elections.

A $569 million bond passed by 18 votes and then failed by 25 votes on Election night. Then the bond passed by 11 in the recount, but 820 votes were missing. The Midland ISD School Board rushed to canvass the vote despite the missing votes. Next there was an attempt to find those missing votes with a partial recount. The results? The missing vote tally rose to 840. Now Midland County has scheduled another count, a full counting of ballots and the opening and potential counting of a new mystery box. 

Thursday’s Recount That Wasn’t a Recount

In what can only be seen as an attempt to redeem themselves, Midland County Elections was granted a court order from District Judge Lindemood to open the ballot boxes once again. This time, a team of two would physically count the ballots, with a third person to count if the first two counts didn’t match. Then the ballots were ordered to be counted by the DS450 scanner and tabulator. 

This last portion of the count became contentious when all parties realized the machine could not count the ballots without producing a “for” and “against” result. Could the pro-bond PAC, We Choose Our Future, be afraid of what that result might show? The election has been canvassed. The only way to change the election now is with a contest. Elections Administrator Deborah Land opted to replace the electronic count with another manual counter and all sides agreed.

All this counting stopped abruptly, however, when the first batch of ballots counted revealed a widening of the gap in votes by 20. Apparently, the counting of these first two boxes did not solve the problem as EA Land had hoped. District Judge Lindemood was called upon again to allow for a pause in the counting process until Monday December 16th

The Counting Continues with a Bonus Mystery Box

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