Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harris judicial candidate Pierre sues to overturn November result

Because of the voting registration failures of Paul Bettencourt, of course:

The Democratic candidate who lost a Harris County judicial race by 230 votes last month is asking a court to make him the winner, saying a variety of alleged vote count and voter registration failures by the county cost him a victory.

Democrat J. Goodwille Pierre, a lawyer who manages small business programs for the Houston airport system, is no stranger to voting rights lawsuits; he said he worked on such issues in Texas for the liberal group People For The American Way, particularly on behalf of Prairie View A&M University students registering in Waller County.

Now the first-time candidate is filing suit on behalf of his own campaign against Republican civil court Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach of the 333rd District Court.

This lawsuit is only slightly related to the TDP's own, filed yesterday, which points to the same shenanigans.

Both suits now allege that outgoing Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a Republican who also serves as voter registrar, rejected legitimate voter registration applications.

Pierre's lawsuit also cites a non-partisan ballots board's rejection of about 5,800 ballots cast by voters who, according to records from Bettencourt's office and other agencies, had not been properly registered. The ballot board chairman said some of the ballots, after being processed by Bettencourt's staff, had information obscured by correction fluid.

"Had all persons who cast a vote in this race been allowed to have their vote counted; it would have changed the outcome of the election by providing Pierre with more votes than Joseph "Tad" Halbach," the suit said. "Moreover, various irregularities make it impossible to ascertain the true outcome of the election."

Ah, the Wite-Out caper again. Recall that it was the GOP ballot board chairman who caught it?

But Republican Jim Harding, a retired Houston business executive who chairs the ballot board of about 35 people, said the counting process was delayed by faulty work by Bettencourt's staff.

The problems included hundreds of voter forms whose information the registrar's staff masked with white correction fluid and then altered with new information, Harding said.

As ballot board members determined whether ballots should be counted, he said, they wanted to have confidence in the accuracy of the registrar's research.

But "that kind of confidence is not replicated here, and then when they see this 'white-out' all over the place they get nervous," he said.

I don't know what to expect out of Pierre's complaint, other than to draw more heat to Bettencourt's misadventure. Pierre is a respected local attorney and Democratic activist; he also challenged Kaufman for the county clerk's position in 2006.

With the breaking news earlier this afternoon that Joan Huffman has likely violated campaign election law by holding a political rally in the same building as an early voting poll, one thing we know for certain is that Vince Ryan is going to be one busy guy.

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