EDITORIAL: Henderson nails down seat, but May 10 vote still not completely settled

Published 4:31 pm Saturday, June 28, 2008

Congratulations to Tom Henderson for winning what started out as a tie vote in a runoff election and then became a ballot examining exercise for the Early Voting Ballot Board. Or perhaps, as the candidates joked Friday while they were awaiting the board’s decision, congratulations should go to Kerry Thomas for being relieved of a heavy council work load.

In all seriousness Thomas should be congratulated for the way he and Henderson handled themselves during the extended campaign and for his attitude of staying committed to working for the citizens of Port Arthur even though he narrowly lost his bid to represent Position 8 on the City Council.

Four rejected ballots were examined Friday by the Ballot Board. One mail-in ballot had been rejected because the same person who assisted that voter had assisted at least one other voter. The rules state that one person can only assist one voter with a mail-in ballot.

The Ballot Board, after consulting with officials at the Texas Secretary of State’s office, decided to count that mail-in ballot and two early ballots that had been disqualified because they didn’t have the required precinct number. A fourth ballot under question, which was filled out by a voter who was concerned that his electronic voted hadn’t been properly cast, was not counted when a review of the electronic voting equipment showed the vote had been cast and counted.

The result of the Budget Board meeting was that three votes were added to the tied runoff total, one for Thomas and two for Henderson, making the 81-year-old veteran councilman the winner by one vote.

The result was close enough that Thomas could still seek a recount. Unless that happens and the result changes again, the Port Arthur City Council is one position closer to having a settled makeup for the next year. But one seat remains under challenge, and the action by the Ballot Board on Friday to include the ballots that had technical flaws could have a direct impact on a challenge in district court by Cal Jones to the 14-vote May 10 win by Elizabeth “Liz” Segler in the District 2 council race.

Thirty-four early vote ballots were rejected in the May 10 election. Terri Hanks, acting city secretary, said 15 of the rejected ballots were in the District 2 race and, if counted, could possibly affect the outcome of the election, according to The News archives.

Friday’s action by the Ballot Board to include ballots that had technical flaws in the runoff election opens the question of why similar technical flaws would cause the ballots to be rejected in the May 10 election. That is one of the questions Jones wants the court to answer.

Even if all 15 ballots are included, Sigler’s 14-vote cushion might be too large for Jones to overcome. But if the results get closer and then a recount is called, we’ve learned from election watching that anything is possible.

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