Posts by Christine Welborn

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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Small Towns, Big Loopholes: Joshua’s Mayoral Election

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Citizens of Joshua are facing a locked door and a lack of confidence in the integrity of their November 23rd Mayoral Special Election. Could the current administration of Joshua use gray areas and loopholes in the code to steal a hotly contested election? That is the question many are asking in Joshua right now.

A Brief History

Earlier this year Kenny Robinson defeated 3-term Mayor Joe Hollarn. The Citizens of Joshua wanted a change. Then, after less than three months in office, Mayor Robinson resigned.

Robinson stated in a letter addressed to city officials and the Joshua City Council that the “wants of the city manager and members of the city council are at a difference.” He further stated that “The stress from the differences has caused me health issues. After discussion with my wife and family, it is with a heavy heart and much praying I have decided to resign as mayor of Joshua effective immediately.”

The conflict in Joshua is one that is common in small-town Texas today, economic development. The big question is should Joshua retain its country living feel or focus on growth into a larger city. Those that supported Kenny Robinson don’t want Joshua to become another Frisco. 

Special Election

The candidates vying to fill the vacant seat are formerly ousted Joe Hollarn and Robert Fleming. Hollarn is once again backed by those that want to push for growth and Fleming’s supporters are largely the same as those that backed Robinson. Hollarn’s advantage is the backing of the City Manager and City Council, especially since that City Council appointed City Manager Josh Jones to administer the election and serve as Election Judge for the City’s single precinct.  

The previous Mayoral Election was administered by City Secretary Lisa Cabrera.  She did not administer the November elections as she was terminated by the City Council in October. Her termination came after Mayor Robinson vacated his office and not long before the election of his replacement. The Council remains tight-lipped on the cause for her termination. The City Secretary vacancy appears to have paved the way to appoint the City Manager. The City Council held a Special Council Meeting November 14th to appoint City Manager Jones to the Early Voting Clerk position (election administrator) for the November 23rd election as well as ratifying his actions as Early Voting Clerk for the November 5thelection. This action was clearly after the fact, but the Secretary of State tends to look the other way when cities make “mistakes” like this.

While this appointment is legal, many citizens of Joshua feel the fox is guarding the henhouse. This sentiment is further aggravated by the polling location’s locked door.

There is only one voting location and it is inside City Hall behind a closed, locked, door that requires a code for entry. When a voter enters City Hall, the City Manager is paged, he enters the room from an interior door, lets the voter in, and processes the voter. If the City Manager is not available, the Assistant City Manager/Election Clerk processes the voter. This process makes some voters uneasy.

The City may argue that this is the best procedure to both keep the ballots safe and save money for the city. However, there have been reports of voters showing up to the polling location, finding the locked door and no one at the reception desk, and leaving without voting. This is very problematic. How many voters’ votes were suppressed by this setup? This election could be determined by a handful of votes, so every vote does matter. Hopefully, those voters will return on Election Day, but they may not. 

The City of Joshua did not contract with Johnson County for this election so the voters cannot turn to the County for assistance. They must instead appeal to the Secretary of State (SoS).  The SoS can bring in State Inspectors to oversee the administration of the election and ensure its integrity. Candidate Robert Fleming has made those appeals if only to reassure the citizens of Joshua. However, as of the posting of this article, calls to the SoS have not been returned. 

Lost Opportunity

Over a dozen bills were filed in the Texas Legislature in the 86th session that dealt with uniform election dates. Uniform election dates would demand that City and ISD elections be held on the same dates as County and State Elections. This would be a huge step toward ensuring that cities and school districts would contract with the County for their elections. Ultimately contracting with the County adds an extra layer of oversight and impartiality to the election.

Unfortunately, all of these bills failed along with most of the other legislation that would have improved election integrity in Texas. We must now wait until the next session in 2021 to help cities like Joshua.

Conservatives Call on Abbott for Special Session

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Yesterday, conservative leaders from across Texas held a press conference in Farmers Branch calling on Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session.

Direct Action Texas’ executive director Daniel Greer spoke at the event on the topic of election integrity, specifically missed opportunities to secure Texas elections ahead of 2020. Full remarks are attached to this article.

Election integrity is one of the 11 issues part of the Lone Star Agenda, formulated following the purple legislative session.

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