D4 Contest: Pressley Marches On

District 4 election contest arrives in court

D4 Contest: Pressley Marches On
Photo by Jana Birchum

The ongoing attempt by defeated City Council candidate Laura Pressley to overturn the results of the District 4 election finally arrived in court on Monday, as her election contest against Council Member Greg Casar received a preliminary hearing from visiting Judge Daniel H. Mills at the Travis County Courthouse. Though the contest is legally framed as Pressley v. Casar, and both candidates and their legal teams were on hand, the substantive questions addressed longstanding Travis County voting procedures, and whether they are adequate to confirm the results of the Nov. 4 election, the Dec. 16 run-off (which Casar won by approx. 65% to 35%), and a Jan. 6 recount that precisely confirmed the run-off result.

Pressley continues to insist that "we don't know" the outcome of the election because of alleged mistakes in election procedures – and those claims are directed not at Casar, but at Travis County and Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who said after the hearing that Pressley and her legal team are "using terms with her own definitions, that don't make sense to the rest of the elections world." At the heart of Pressley's case – laid out for the court by her attorney, David Rogers – is her insistence that the "cast vote records" printed and recounted in January do not meet the statutory definition of "ballot images" described in state law, although the Texas Secretary of State (supervisor of elections) has already rejected the Pressley interpretation. Casar's attorney, Chuck Herring, added that all the relevant authorities (city, county, state, federal) define cast vote records as "ballot images," and Pressley has "a mountain to climb" to show otherwise.

During the hearing, the judge appeared unpersuaded by Rogers. It would appear, he pointed out, that the District 4 line vote appearing on the "ballot summary" – inspected by a voter prior to finally casting a ballot – is indeed a "ballot image." Rogers objected to that interpretation, and also to the judge's informal offer to hand-count the already printed cast vote records himself. The judge is hoping to update pleadings and complete more limited discovery by the end of April, for a trial – if necessary – that could occur as early as June.

Pressley said she was "very encouraged" by the hearing, and believes the county will not be able to produce "ballot images" – as she defines them. Herring says the judge will likely be receptive to a summary judgment rejecting Pressley's arguments, because her team has provided no authority for their position on ballot images. "I think they've got a big hill to climb," he said, "to convince the judge they're right, on a unique, novel interpretation."

For more on this story, see "District 4 Contest Arrives in Court," April 6, at austinchronicle.com.

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City Council 2015, City Council Election 2014, December Run-off 2014, Laura Pressley, Greg Casar, David Rogers, Chuck Herring

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