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Burnam challenge awaiting appeal

Another update on the ongoing legal challenge by State Rep. Lon Burnam, who wants his loss in the primary to Ramon Romero thrown out on the grounds that some applications for absentee ballots by Romero voters involved the use of iPads, which are not included as permissible devices in the relevant state law.

Rep. Lon Burnam

In a hearing earlier this month, attorneys representing Burnam asked that county election officials release all the applications turned in for mail-in ballots in this race to investigate potential illegalities such as an “illegal computerized-signature vote-by-mail operation.”

State District Judge Robert McFarling of Denton, the visiting judge appointed to the case, turned down the request. Burnam’s attorney, former Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender, has filed an appeal, asking the Fort Worth Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling.

McFarling on Monday agreed to delay the trial until the Court of Appeals rules. The case was scheduled to go to trial Tuesday.

Brender said he was glad for the delay.

“We are continuing our investigation every day,” he said. “And we are investigating other aspects of the election — and have been the whole time.”

Romero’s staff said they believe the final ruling will go their way.

“We are confident in the legal system,” said Michael “Mikey” Valdez, Romero’s campaign manager. “We feel the right decision will be made and it will confirm our victory.”

See here, here, and here for the background. I presume that’s the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and not the “Fort Worth Court of Appeals” since as far as I know there is no such thing. I don’t have anything to add to this story, but on a related note both Campos and Michael Li complained about an email Burnam sent out, presumably as an update on his case and as a fundraising appeal. Burnam is litigating a technicality, and technicalities don’t have much fundraising appeal. Trying to make it more than that risks alienating supporters and handing Republicans political ammunition. Burnam may win his challenge, but I’ll say again that I see nothing wrong in what Romero’s campaign did, nor do I see any reason why the law shouldn’t be amended to specifically allow it. Don’t lose sight of who you are in your quest to stay in office, Lon.

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5 Comments

  1. mollusk says:

    There is a Fort Worth Court of Appeals. It handles appeals from courts in a dozen counties in North Texas, generally north and west of the DFW Metroplex.

  2. Kenneth Fair says:

    The Fort Worth Court of Appeals is also known as the Second Court of Appeals. The Fourth Court of Appeals is also known as the San Antonio Court of Appeals.

  3. Kenneth Fair says:

    There’s a good map on the state website for the courts of appeals that shows which counties are in each appellate district. Cases appealed from a particular county end up in that appellate court, except when cases are transferred to another appellate court for docket balancing.

  4. I stand corrected. Thanks, guys!

  5. Jim Riley says:

    Romero won election-day voting by a small margin. Romero won in-person early-voting by a small margin. Burnam won early-voting by mail by a small margin.

    So there is a very real possibility that many of those who were assisted in receiving an absentee ballot voted for Burnam. This is going to make it difficult to win an election contest, which has a high burden of proof in Texas.

    An alternative explanation would be that Burnam targeted his GOTV. That is, he might target voters who were black, white, or said they favored Burnam, and then encouraged them to apply for a mail ballot.

    There were a number of races in Tarrant County where there was a Hispanic-surnamed candidate: Governor, Congress (TX-33), Senate (SD-10), and House (HD-90). In all but the last race, the Hispanic candidate did better in mail voting, than they did in in-person voting; whether early or election day.

    This suggests that the by-mail electorate skewed Hispanic.

    There was an extreme disparity in the rate of mail voting between the three Democratic House districts in Tarrant County, and the other 8 districts. The reason they are Democratic is that they have a large minority population. The reason they had a high mail turnout is likely because they were targeted by the candidates in TX-33, where race was the key issue. Marc Veasey could expect 90% of the black vote, and would simply try to get every black voter to vote. Most people skip the primary, so any voter who receives a mail ballot is several times more likely to vote than someone who doesn’t.

    The same is true to a great extent for Tom Sanchez and the Hispanic vote. Whites are more likely to take a Republican ballot, or be more split. The yield of votes is much less – and it may be a waste to even encourage whites to vote.

    Given that Burnam actually did better in mail voting, I suspect that HD-90 is just fall out from the other races, particularly TX-33.

    If Burnam loses his appeal, he is pretty much stuck with getting the list of mail voters, selecting those with Hispanic surnames, and trying to determine how they applied for a mail ballot and who they voted for. It’s so much cleaner if you can look for some indicator in the applications and pretend that you didn’t notice that most of the “illegal” votes were cast by Hispanics.

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