New judge appointed to hear Burnam election challenge

Posted Saturday, Mar. 29, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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A state district judge from Denton County will oversee a case involving long-time state Rep. Lon Burnam‘s accusations that votes were cast illegally in the Democratic Party primary last month.

State District Judge Robert McFarling was appointed Friday by state District Judge David Evans, the administrative judge for the Eighth Judicial Region. McFarling will replace state District Judge R.H. Wallace.

The Texas Election Code dictates that a judge from outside the county hear a case involving an election challenge.

Earlier this week Burnam, who has served in the Texas House since 1997, sued Ramon Romero, who defeated him by 111 votes in the March 4 primary. Burnam’s suit contends that hundreds of votes were illegally cast in the District 90 legislative race.

In a statement Burnam said: “I believe I have no choice after receiving multiple reports of an illegal computerized-signature vote-by-mail operation run to benefit my opponent. This operation appears to have clearly violated state law.”

Burnam said that he received reports from voters who were approached by campaign workers, and it was unclear who they were affiliated with. The workers asked the voters to fill out vote by mail applications on an electronic tablet, Burnam said in his statement.

It is illegal in Texas to fill out vote-by-mail applications electronically.

On election night, the race was close, with results separated by a handful of votes. Romero, a businessman who owns A-Fast Coping Tile and Stone, told the Star-Telegram previously that many had worked hard for his campaign.

Burnam has also filed motions to subpoena former Elections Administrator Steve Raborn and interim Elections Administrator Stephen Vickers.

Raborn announced his resignation in December and will become president of Votec, a company based in San Diego, Calif., that focuses on voter registration and election management software.

Raborn’s motion stated that the elections administrator is neutral, but is required to protect records from unauthorized release and that the elections office is compiling records that can be released publicly.

“Because the documents sought involve the privacy rights of hundreds of people, they cannot be released to the litigants merely to satisfy their curiosity if there is no reason to believe votes were cast by persons who were not entitled to vote, or to believe that persons who were entitled to vote were denied the right to vote,” the motion stated.

His motion went on to say that no mail ballots from District 90 were denied, and that the question is whether there may be persons who voted who may not be entitled to vote.

According to Raborn’s motion, some voters apparently signed electronic devices for mail ballots and there may be some irregularities or illegalities on the part of those who were assisting the voters. The district attorney’s office is reviewing the matter.

The issue is separate from whether anyone not entitled to vote cast ballots, according to court documents.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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