A Conservative Republican former Texas Supreme Court Justice, who ran against a Republican opponent backed by Gov. Rick Perry, is considering a challenge to the tremendously flawed Primary Elections held in the state two weeks ago on new Electronic Voting Machines.
The campaign for Steve Smith announced last week in a Press Release received only last night by The BRAD BLOG (and posted in full below) has filed a "Public Information Act request with the Tarrant County Elections Administrator seeking to review public documents relating to the Republican Party primary election in Tarrant County" on March 7th.
As discussed in their press release, but elaborated upon to The BRAD BLOG in an interview this afternoon with Smith's campaign manager, David Rogers, the results reported from all across the state seem to make little or no sense.
For example, though his was a statewide race, Smith's home county is Tarrant where in 2004, according to Rogers, Smith "outperformed the statewide results by 13%, but this year, according to the results, he underperformed the statewide results by 23%."
"Something doesn't make sense here," he noted, adding that turnout went up this year by 12,000 votes, but apparently a full "11,000 of them did not go to Smith."
Amongst the many concerns alleged by Smith's campaign are that audit tapes from the voting machines are only available on 103 of the 211 election day voting locations, making it impossible to audit all of the races. "No audit can be correctly performed on more than half of the machines in the state," says Rogers.
Perhaps more troubling still, is this item from Smith's press release:
Due to time-constraints (we were supposed to hit the road about five hours ago), we weren't able to confirm those incredible Winkler County numbers. But if they are true, they are indeed mind-blowing.
As previously reported, Tarrant County saw some 100,000 votes added incorrectly to the election totals on Hart InterCivic and ES&S voting machines on Election Day. As well, The BRAD BLOG reported on a whistleblower who worked for both Hart and later at Tarrant County. In July of 2004, he sent letters warning the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General about serious problems which he regarded as both "criminal" and "fraudulent" both at Hart and in Tarrant County's Board of Elections. His letters, he told us, were completely ignored by all of the officials.
And yesterday, that same Sec. of State in Texas was forced to shut down a mandated recount in Tom Green County when the Hart InterCivic machines were reporting results that differed by some 20% from the original totals as reported on Election Night.
We wonder if he might decide to go back and talk to our whistleblower now. Apparently both the Smith campaign and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (as we learned earlier today when they contacted us for more info) suddenly have an interest in doing so.
Rogers indicated to The BRAD BLOG this morning that they were seriously investigating a complete challenge to the election statewide and hope to get a much closer look at those Hart and ES&S machines in order to try and make sense of whatever the hell happened in Texas.
We'd like to see that happen, of course. And now that a conservative Republican may have had his own ox gored by these infernal machines, perhaps it'll actually become a reality.
The complete Press Release issued by Smith's campaign --- detailing even more "irregularties" in the race --- follows. [emphasis in the original] ...
Steve Smith For
Texas Supreme Court, Place 2
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (March 16, 2006)
CONTACT: David Rogers, Campaign Manager, (512) 923-6188
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith may file an election contest or request for recount, says "serious mistakes were made."
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith announced today that he has taken the next step towards filing an election contest or request for recount in his race for Texas Supreme Court, Place 2. "Serious Mistakes were made in the counting of ballots in Tarrant County. We want one fair, accurate and complete count," Smith said. "To that end, we have filed a Public Information Act request with the Tarrant County Elections Administrator seeking to review public documents relating to the Republican Party primary election in Tarrant County," added David Rogers, Smith's campaign manager.
"Unfortunately, the true result in Tarrant County may never be known," said David Rogers, Campaign Manager for former Justice Smith. Though there were 211 election day voting locations for the 635 precincts, audit tapes reporting the election results in each machine were run in only 103 locations. One hundred and eight (51%) of the voting locations did not have properly run audit tapes.
Initial results in Tarrant County included 27,895 phantom votes. The final statewide margin between Smith and Willett was 5,441 votes. The first "corrected" result reported by Tarrant County was a margin of 7,922 (62%-38%). That margin is larger in terms of raw votes than the margin in Harris County, Dallas County or Bexar County, all of which have substantially larger populations than Tarrant County. The "corrected" results switched the first and second place results in Tarrant County's 342th District Court.
Those numbers for Tarrant County are suspect in part because Tarrant County voted for Smith in the 2004 primary by 11,423 to 10,331 (53%-47%), and Smith only lost Tarrant County in the 2002 by 17,411 to 15, 215 (47%-53%). In 2002 and 2004, the statewide margins were substantially higher (7% and 6%, respectively) than the statewide margin in 2006 (less than 1%). The combined statewide margin between Smith and his primary opponents over three elections is less than 1/40th of one percent (417 votes). (Smith: 841,586; Rodriguez, Green & Willett combined: 842,003.) If Smith's margin in Tarrant County is actually the same as his margin in either 2002 or 2004, he won statewide.
Despite the fact that Tarrant County Interim Elections Administrator Gayle Hamilton has expressed a desire to count the Tarrant County ballots correctly, attorneys for the Tarrant County District Attorney's office and the Secretary of State's office have told Hamilton she may not count the ballots without a court order, an election contest or request for a recount.
"To date, there has not been a correct count of Tarrant County ballots," said Rogers. "There has been an incorrect count and there has been an attempt to correct the errors in that count. What we want - and what we understand the County Elections Administrator and the County Republican Chair want - is a single correct count of the ballots in Tarrant County. We know for certain that mistakes were made, and the acknowledged mistakes changed the Tarrant County result by a number of votes more than double the remaining statewide margin. Former Justice Smith thinks that a single accurate count is a reasonable request."
The Texas Election Code requires that a recount for a statewide office would require that all paper ballots statewide be recounted in addition to the ballots in Tarrant County, and that the expense would be borne by the party requesting the recount.
Additionally, in far west Texas, Winkler County, which went for Smith by margins of 260-92 (74%) and 468-249 (65%) in the 2002 and 2004 elections, went against Smith by an unbelievable 0-273 (100%) margin. Governor Perry received only 83% of the vote in Winkler County, and no other contested candidate topped 80%. The propositions on the ballot topped out at 93%.
Winkler county used machines from Election Systems and Software (ES&S), a company that was severely criticized by county officials in Webb county for programming errors and delays during the primary election, according to reports from the Laredo Morning Times of March 14, 2006. ES&S machines operate in 144 of Texas's 254 counties.
Beyond that, Duval County, made infamous by Lyndon Johnson's 1948 theft of the U.S. Senate election in that county, has reported an astonishing 55% turnout, with allegations of vote farming and vote fraud, as reported in the March 16, 2006 Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Additionally, Jefferson County vote totals were changed by more than 1,500 for each candidate in a race for Jefferson County Judge when a recount was held on Monday, according to reports from the March 14, 2006 edition of the Beaumont Enterprise. Jefferson County had double-counted some ballots, including 644 Republican ballots. (The Jefferson County margin between Smith and Willett is 325 votes.) Some precincts had reported more votes than voters. Tarrant County double, triple, quadruple, quintuple and sextuple-counted some votes. The Enterprise reported that ES&S would cover the cost for the recount in Jefferson County, estimated at $8,000.
According to a March 16, 2006 report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tarrant County will charge any candidate who wants a recount. No mention was made of any offer by Hart InterCivic, whose machines were used in Tarrant County, to pick up the cost of a correct count.
Smith won 152 of 254 counties. No Republican primary was held in 18 counties, and the candidates tied in 2 counties. Willett won 82 counties (33%).
Steve Smith is best known as a conservative former Justice of the Texas Supreme Court who was elected in 2002 despite opposition from insurance industry interests. In private practice, Smith was best known as the attorney who filed, litigated and won the Hopwood case that ended racial preferences at Texas universities from 1996 through 2003. Smith served as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court from Nov. 20 of 2002 until Dec. 31, 2004, and was one of only two Republican justices who did not accept contributions from insurance industry front group Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
Political Communication paid for by Steve Smith for Texas Supreme Court,
Susan Smith, Treasurer, P.O. Box 926, Austin, Texas 78767
UPDATE 3/28/06: Election Contest now filed. Details and full complaint here...