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Morones wins election suit
WILLIAM J. GIBBS JR./Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com
In a style reminiscent of a referee and a prizefighter, attorney Luis Roberto Vera Jr. (right) raises the arm of his client, Mario Morones, in victory July 30. A judge ruled that Morones had been re-elected to his Floresville city council Place 2 seat.
Wilson County NewsAugust 3, 2010 2,536 views 3 comments
FLORESVILLE -- Mario Morones has reassumed his place on the Floresville city council following a judge’s ruling July 30 that declares him the winner of a June 26 election.
Judge David Peeples, with the 224th Judicial District, ruled that 52 of 63 mail-in ballots that were previously rejected should be counted. When the count was complete, Morones had received a total of 699 votes to Eric Rodriguez’s 681 votes.
Peeples further ruled that Rodriguez vacate the seat. He then swore in Morones.
Morones filed suit July 1 after it was revealed that a number of mail-in ballots were excluded from the vote tally. Officials said the ballots, which were from voters scheduled to be out of the county on election day, were invalid because the citizens who requested them did not provide an out-of-county address.
According to a canvass conducted during that evening’s council meeting, Rodriguez won the election after receiving 678 votes to Morones’ 650 votes. This was the second election contest between the two candidates, which was called after a recount of the original May 8 election left the candidates tied at 499 votes each. (See “Morones sues over election,” July 7 Wilson County News.)
During the trial, Morones’ attorney, Luis Roberto Vera Jr., argued that election judges Margaret DeHoyos and Pam Burkett have the duty to inspect mail-in ballot applications and to notify the voter if the form is not properly completed. He said the voter would then correct the issue or be asked to cast his or her ballot in person.
Instead, Vera said these ballots were set aside until the early ballot board met on the afternoon of the election. Officials, who at this point were being observed by personnel from the secretary of state’s office, ruled these ballots should be rejected because there was no longer sufficient time to notify the voters of their mistakes.
Floresville City Attorney Louis Rosenberg did not dispute the arguments Vera presented. He said Burkett earlier testified that in her 20 years of serving as an election judge, voters who did not specify an out-of-county address were still allowed to vote in previous city elections. It was perhaps because of the involvement of the secretary of state’s office that the unprecedented decision was made to reject the ballots.
Despite this, Peeples said he did not believe Burkett and DeHoyos acted deliberately, calling their actions an “honest mistake.”
Rosenberg said Rodriguez called the secretary of state’s office one day before the election because of issues of possible election fraud. Allegations had surfaced that some disadvantaged voters were threatened with losing food assistance if they did not “vote for so-and-so,” he said.
Morones said later that his whole reason for filing the suit was related to ensuring that the rights of the voters were being protected.
“It has always been about my supporters,” he said.
Rodriguez could not be reached for comment prior to press time Aug. 2.
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