Laura Pressley: The Beat Goes On

Defeated candidate makes her case at Tres Amigos

Laura Pressley
Laura Pressley (Photo by Jana Birchum)

About three dozen people gathered at Tres Amigos Sunday afternoon to hear defeated City Council District 4 candidate Laura Pressley explain – via a PowerPoint presentation titled, “Was Your Vote Counted?” – why she is contesting the Dec. 16 run-off she lost to Council Member Greg Casar, 65-35%.

As Newsdesk has reported several times previously, Pressley insists that there were “a lot of abnormalities” in the run-off voting and the subsequent January recount, and as she sees it, “the numbers just did not add up.” She finds it difficult to believe that her vote percentage would not have changed significantly from the general election to the run-off – plateauing at 35% – and she insists that the standard recount and the refusal of the Secretary of State to forward her complaints to the Attorney General for criminal investigation have left her no alternative but to file an election contest, to be heard sometime in the next couple of months by Blanco County Judge Daniel H. Mills.

There were one or two skeptics in the audience, but most were very supportive of Pressley’s effort and congratulated her on challenging the run-off and the entire election system. Among the group was defeated Republican County Judge candidate Mike McNamara, who told Newsdesk that he didn’t have a specific opinion on Pressley’s election but that he is “interested in the subject” and “had heard a lot of stories” over the years about the mishandling of military and mail-in ballots, and wanted to hear what she had to say. A few people were from “Vote Rescue,” which has opposed all electronic voting systems, and defeated mayoral candidate and longtime Pressley supporter David Orshalick told the group he was on Pressley’s recount team and was “absolutely appalled” by the process, insisting that his rights as an election observer had been denied. Pressley said she was not alleging “fraud,” either by her opponent or the Travis County election administrators, only that “we don’t know what happened,” and therefore should hold a new election. Several audience members were not so reticent, suggesting that vote tampering or fraud were better explanations of the D4 outcome; Richard Franklin, a paid consultant on Pressley’s campaign, said County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has been “lying” for years about the availability of better voting systems.

Pressley’s attorney, David Rogers, was a late arrival, and suggested that much of her case may rest on the legal definition of “ballot images” – whether the voting machines must produce a literal facsimile of an actual printed ballot, or instead that the database-generated “cast vote records” are the legal equivalent of ballot images, as the county clerk and the secretary of state have said. Rogers said previous challenges of that issue have failed for a lack of standing, and that a challenge by a defeated candidate “who may have been harmed” by the process stands a better chance of being heard in court. By then an audience member who was advocating a new election using only paper ballots had taken to holding up handmade signs: “COA [City of Austin] District Recount was another Inside Job” and “Replay Casar’s victory speech backward.” Whatever the outcome of Pressley’s contest, it’s unlikely to satisfy the suspicions simmering in the Tres Amigos party room.

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