340th District Judge Dick Alcala issued his ruling in the case of Mary J. Lozano vs. James Rosales at the end of a daylong trial held in the municipal auditorium at City Hall in Karnes City on Monday, July 9.
Many witnesses were called by attorneys for Lozano and Rosales throughout the course of the trial and many documents were entered into evidence.
Attorney Eric Opiela represented Contestant Mary J. Lozano in the case and said during his closing comments that the issue all boiled down to a mistake on the part of the voter registrar’s office of Karnes County.
“We have also put on evidence that has proved that we had nine people who were not allowed to vote in the county commissioner precinct 3 race and one person who was allowed to vote in the race yet was not a resident of the precinct,” Opiela said.
“The outcome of an election is materially affected when a different and correct result would have been reached in the absence of an irregularity or irregularities in the conduct of the election render it impossible to determine the majority of the voters’ true will,” Opiela said. “As we have shown here today, this case falls into the latter.”
Opiela said the facts in the case were largely undisputed. Voters who should have been moved to a new voting precinct as a result of changes in district lines made through redistricting, were not moved as they should have been, Opiela explained, and in one case a voter who should not have been allowed to vote in the election, conversely was allowed to do so.
“You can not, with clear and convincing evidence, know what the result is in this election,” Opiela said. “As a result the election code directs you to order a new election – hopefully an election in which the county voter registrar’s office will correct the voter rolls and have people voting in the right precinct.”
“I think we have shown that our voters that were denied the right to vote were qualified, and one that was not qualified was allowed to vote and that number exceeded the difference in the race and therefore we ask for a new election,” Opiela concluded.
During his closing comments, Attorney David Chapman, representing the contestee, James Rosales, said that court should uphold the results of the May 29 election.
“We put evidence on at the end that said three of the nine people they were relying on, actually were not denied the vote because of any mistakes by any county official,” Chapman said. “That cuts it down to six – admitting that one person voted illegally for my client – that makes seven votes that the contestant is entitled to rely on.”
“That makes her one short – by their own way of counting and by the evidence we just heard from the county clerk, from requiring a new election,” Chapman said. “I think what we have is a one vote election in favor of my client.”
“I think we don’t need a new election,” Chapman said. “The court should declare the election – as corrected – valid – and award the victory to my client by one vote. I urge the court to do so.”
District Judge Dick Alcala, after reaching his decision, said that the court’s findings were made as a result of clear and convincing evidence.
“Due to an error by the election officials, at least nine eligible voters were prevented from voting in their correct precinct,” Alcala said. “After the final canvass there was a difference of eight votes between these two candidates. The court further finds that evidence of how the voters intended to vote under the circumstances of this case – and the conflicting case law on that – it is not relevant I think in this case where it is a close election. The reliability of that type of evidence is questionable, and as a result the true outcome of this election can not be ascertained and therefore the court hereby declares the election for county commissioner precinct 3 in Karnes County held on May 29 of 2012 void and a new election is ordered and the cost of this contest are assessed equally against the contestant and the contestee.”
Afterwards, Judge Alcala discussed a possible date for the new election, and after discussion with both attorneys and local and state election officials, the date of the election was set for July 31 to coincide with two local runoff elections set for that date.