Defeated PA councilman asks judge to reinstate discarded ballots

David Yates Jun. 4, 2008, 8:51am

Rather than resign himself to defeat, a Port Arthur councilman has filed suit in hopes a local court will reinstate 35 suspect ballots and declare him victorious – proving that no matter how high or low the office, no politician likes to say goodbye.

District Councilman Carroll "Cal" Jones lost his seat in the May 10th elections to Elizabeth Segler by a vote of 191 to 205 – coming up just 15 votes shy of victory.

Jones immediately demanded a recount, delaying Segler's swearing-in ceremony, but gave up on that course of action and instead pursued a legal recourse, demanding 35 discarded ballots be reinstated.

According to KBTV-4 News, the ballot board found that the 35 ballots shared similar handwriting and were submitted without a signature. Acting City Secretary Terri Hanks reported the incident to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. The DA investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing.

With the DA choosing not to touch the case, Jones was green-lighted to file suit and did so on June 3 in the Jefferson County District Court. Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

"Contestant (Jones) argues that by disenfranchising or denying these voters rights directly prevents the said Contestant from winning the election," Jones' suit states.

"Further the Court may determine whether or not an election official's actions prevented eligible voters from voting; failed to count legal votes, or engaged in other fraud or illegal conduct or made a mistake."

According to Jones' suit, Acting City Secretary Hanks, charged with receiving applications for early voting and forwarding ballots, "unilaterally determined" that 43 applications for ballots where suspicious and improper. Hanks turned the applications to the DA.

Hanks then sent out ballots to all 43 applicants. Eight returned ballots were accepted and 35 ballots where withheld from the final count and canvassing of votes.

"On May 19 the office of the City Secretary sent out notification of Ballot Rejection to the 35 Applicants. The correspondence indicated that the Early Voting Ballot Board meet on May 9 and rejected their Application for a Ballot by Mail as invalid for failing to contain a witness signature," the suit said.

"The 35 Ballots are currently held under lock and key in the Office of the Acting City Secretary for the City of Port Arthur. Of the 35 ballots held, 15 are applications and ballots from voters in District 2."

Jones is alleging Hanks and the Early Voting Board either separately or in combination with others "erroneously denied voters rights guaranteed under the (city's election code)," the suit states.

Ultimately, Jones is asking Judge Sanderson to reinstate the votes and declare him victorious.

Beaumont Attorney Kent Johns of the Johns and Johns law firm is handling Jones' case.

Case No. B181-861

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