Pressley Pays Up
City Clerk announces recount on for 11am Tuesday
By Michael King,
6:00PM, Mon. Jan. 5, 2015
Late Monday, Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall ruled that defeated District 4 candidate Laura Pressley's "Amended Petition for Recount" is "sufficient" – Pressley apparently kicked in the full $13,600 deposit – and the recount will proceed at the Travis County Elections Division at 11am Tuesday.
As we reported Monday morning, on Friday, Jan. 2, Pressley requested a manual recount of the "ballot images" stored in the Hart Voting System, because of alleged "inconsistencies" in the voting information released by Travis County, and because "electronic voting system" is listed as a permissible ground for a recount on the petition standards. But the scheduling was delayed because Pressley was misinformed about the amount of the deposit; she thought the amount required was $1,900. She's apparently willing to blow nearly 14 grand of somebody's money to persist in her dream of ascending to the Council dais.
Each campaign is allowed to have teams watching the recount procedure, but according to the Travis County Clerk's office, the recount will not be open to the public, and reporters must watch through glass from a separate room and remain – under state law – at least 30 feet away from the proceedings. Sort of like Kabuki theatre, or a Huntsville execution.
Pressley claims to be able to sense invisible rays emanating from mobile phones and other electronic devices, but she is apparently a little weaker on basic arithmetic. For the record, she lost the run-off to Council member-elect Greg Casar, 65% to 35% – more precisely, 2,854 votes to 1,563 votes.
Pressley’s petition claims evidence of “inconsistencies” in the vote-by-mail system and in the apparent total of voters registered/voting in certain precincts, and her campaign apparently believes that those inconsistencies could be sufficient to reverse a 30-point margin in the final tally. The $13,600 deposit – presumably refundable should the recount reverse the results – required by state law is based on the 135 county polling places (plus one for early voting) where D4 voters may have voted. She initially said the money would come from her campaign funds; but on her final, Dec. 8 campaign finance report, Pressley recorded she held $7,384 in cash-on-hand; presumably, she will eventually file an amended post-election finance report.
At 11am Tuesday, the County Clerk will assemble five recounting teams at the Travis County Elections Division – and five members of each candidate’s staff may watch the count.
District 4 Council Member-elect Casar commented that the recount request “seems to be a misguided effort, but I respect and understand the process and look forward to the results, if there's a recount. I'm ready to serve.”
Pressley declined to concede to Casar on election night, instead distributing a press release accusing him of having sold out the district to unnamed “special interests.” Over the weekend she was taking heat on social media for the recount request, and one Facebook post noted that her political mentor, radio demagogue Alex Jones, had predicted she would win unless “the electronic voting machines” prevented it. On the Austin Neighborhoods Council listserv, Austin Community College Government Professor David Albert posted a criticism of the recount, reading in part: “Speaking as a professional political scientist and an election judge who knows the voting process in this county on the ground, I have to say this recount request is ridiculous. Laura Pressley lost 65%-35% and by 1300 votes. Any discrepancies – and you often have minor ones in elections – are extremely minor and can't possible shift 650 votes.”
Albert concluded: “[This recount] is unnecessary, impractical and it will just be a big waste of time and money. She needs to respect the process and accept the reality that Greg Casar won and allow the business of the city of Austin to move forward unimpeded by totally unnecessary obstructions.”
It's not clear yet how long the recount will take, nor if the eventual winner will be able to be sworn in Tuesday evening with the new mayor and the rest of the Council members-elect. The District 4 vote will have to be officially "canvassed" after the recount, and that may mean that the D4 Council member would have to be separately sworn in after the others.
For a report on the outcome, follow the Newdesk and this week’s Chronicle print edition.