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Lawsuit filed over rejected voter registrations

J. Goodwille Pierre, who lost his Harris County judicial race by 230 votes, has filed a lawsuit claiming that improperly rejected voter registrations and provisional ballots cost him that election.

[H]is lawsuit focuses instead on Harris County voting controversies being aired in a separate federal lawsuit brought against the county by the Texas Democratic Party.

Both suits now allege that outgoing Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a Republican who also serves as voter registrar, rejected legitimate voter registration applications.

Pierre’s lawsuit also cites a non-partisan ballots board’s rejection of about 5,800 ballots cast by voters who, according to records from Bettencourt’s office and other agencies, had not been properly registered. The ballot board chairman said some of the ballots, after being processed by Bettencourt’s staff, had information obscured by correction fluid.

“Had all persons who cast a vote in this race been allowed to have their vote counted; it would have changed the outcome of the election by providing Pierre with more votes than Joseph “Tad” Halbach,” the suit said. “Moreover, various irregularities make it impossible to ascertain the true outcome of the election.”

The case number is 200872747 – you can go here and search on that number to find the details of the suit. There were no associated documents when I looked, so there’s not much to see right now. Somewhat ironically, the judge assigned to this case is Patricia Kerrigan in the 190th Civil Court; next to Halbach and his 230-vote margin, Kerrigan had the closest win among the incumbents, beating Andres Pereira by 2,440 votes. I have no idea how likely this suit is to be successful, but it’s another arrow being aimed at Paul Bettencourt. Maybe he really did get while the getting was good.

On that note, the Lone Star Project takes a look at the Bettencourt business:

Less than six weeks after asking Harris County voters for another four-year term as Tax Assessor Collector, Republican Paul Bettencourt is bailing out on them – perhaps to avoid answering legal questions about pending litigation charging him with illegal partisan activity. Bettencourt’s resignation comes just one day after a federal court was asked to schedule a deposition to require him to testify under oath about his involvement in alleged partisan efforts to avoid counting thousands of provisional ballots cast during the November General Election.

In a press statement made very late Friday, December 5th, Bettencourt made no mention of the pending legal complaint, but instead said he was leaving office to accept a lucrative offer from the private sector. (Houston Chronicle, December 6, 2008) He refused, however, to identify his new employer and failed to comment on the terms of the offer, stating that providing the name of his new employer would violate conflict of interest statutes.

Using some very “creative” logic, Bettencourt rationalized that identifying his new employer now would create a conflict of interest, but that it was okay to meet with and negotiate an employment agreement with the employer while he was a county officeholder in the midst of an election campaign. Bettencourt’s backroom deal deserves even more scrutiny after ABC13’s Miya Shay speculated that Bettencourt will, “be fighting people’s property tax hikes for a fee.” ( ABC13 Political Blog )

Miya didn’t so much speculate as write that “those in the know” say he’ll be doing that. Maybe that’s just speculation once removed, and maybe “those in the know” really do know something. It is kind of weird that Bettencourt won’t say who he’s going to be working for – as the LSP goes on to ask, if that constitutes a potential conflict of interest, then wouldn’t the discussions he was having with this mystery firm, back when he still was the Tax Assessor, also a conflict of interest? And, something I’m unclear on, if he’s resigned why does he have to stick around until a successor is named? Surely the office can run itself for a couple of weeks without him – I’m sure he’s taken a vacation or two in his tenure, and there must be a contingency for situations where the Tax Assessor dies or is otherwise unable to serve. So why not just let him walk so we can finally find out who his new boss is? I don’t get it.

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2 Comments

  1. Stuart mayper says:

    How come this blog will never mention there was 1200 double votes in the Democatic Primary? How much double voting occured in the general election/. It will never be mentioned here. This is my challenge to ” Off the Kuff”

  2. How come this blog will never mention there was 1200 double votes in the Democatic Primary?

    Um, I did mention it. My challenge to you is to come up with better talking points.