Trial delayed in Lon Burnam election loss

04/14/2014 7:22 PM

04/14/2014 7:23 PM

A trial set to determine whether state Rep.-elect Ramon Romero won House District 90 fair and square has been delayed.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, who lost the House seat he has represented for nearly two decades by 111 votes, filed a lawsuit last month claiming that potentially illegal ballots were cast.

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.”

Burnam’s lawsuit alleges that some voters in the district were approached by campaign workers who asked them to fill out applications to vote by mail on an electronic device such as an iPad.

He said he wanted to review the applications because he believes “these documents and other testimony will establish beyond question that the computerized-signature operation was illegal and that I won the election.”

Burnam has noted that nearly 1,000 of the 5,078 votes cast in this race were absentee mail-in ballots — which could have been a deciding factor.

Brender has said election records already have shown that at least three people may have voted twice — once in early voting and once on election day. A review of all the applications could show even more problems and potentially invalidate enough ballots to flip the election results, he said.

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