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Letter: Ballot ‘probably unethical,’ but not illegal
Last month I wrote a letter to the editor in the Wilson County News requesting support for legislation that will allow for an automatic recount for all future close elections if the winning margin is one half of one percent or less. I was told by the offices of Sen. Zaffirini and Rep. Kuempel that many have called, and for that I am thankful.
A brief recap of the last election for the Certificate of Obligation is in order. Recall that on or about Oct. 9, the county advertised in this newspaper that the Certificate of Obligation, if passed, would fund five projects, to include an animal shelter and new road construction. On Oct. 16, and again on Oct. 22, at two different forums, Judge Quinney admitted that all of what had been advertised would not be funded. County officials knew when they notified the public of the upcoming Certificate of Obligation election on or about Oct. 9, that only three of the five advertised projects would be funded if the Certificate passed! Several of us in the county thought that this was wrong.
Within a day or two of the election, I contacted both the Secretary of State’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General. I gave them the facts and supporting evidence and asked them what could be done about what appeared to be a fraudulent ballot. The Attorney General’s office could only act if the issue was referred to it by the Secretary of State’s Office. This is necessary because the Secretary of State has no authority to enforce election issues and therefore must refer them to the Attorney General.
Within the last two days I have had email and telephonic communication with the director of elections at the Secretary of State’s Office. My contact with the director of elections was quite revealing. He told me that the falsely advertised ballot was certainly wrong and probably unethical, but that it was not illegal! It seems there has been no law passed making it illegal to falsely advertise to the public what the ballot initiative includes.
As I have stated before and will state again, I am not passing judgment on the projects that were funded in the last election. I personally support many of them. I do believe that no matter how noble initiatives may be, the ends should never justify the means.
I have again contacted my state senator and representative and asked them to work together and with me to craft legislation that will negate any election that has proven to have been falsely advertised. The intent is not to criminalize actions such as this because honest mistakes can be made; but if it is apparent that an issue passed because it was falsely advertised, then the election should be set aside. That is the least we can do to ensure an open, honest, and transparent government.
If you agree that we need a provision in law to ensure that advertised ballots are exactly what will be voted on and enforced, then please contact both Rep. John Kuempel (R) and Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D). Their contact information is below.
Rep. Kuempel, John District 44
Austin office: 512-463-0602
Seguin office: 830-379-8732
The Honorable Judith Zaffirini
Austin office: 512-463-0121
Laredo office: 956-722-2293
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