Howard-Neil contest update
Thu February 3, 2011 12:51 pm

The outcome of Special Master Will Hartnett's mini-recount (of about 250 votes) in the House District 48 election contest favored Donna Howard: it proved the original recount correctly removed  four votes from her vote total.  Attorneys for Dan Neil hoped to cast doubt on the four votes to further whittle Howard's lead, which stands now at 6 to 8 votes.

A few more voters will be called to testify this afternoon -- and four more ballots will be counted Monday. Final arguments in the hearing are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Former State Rep. Joe Nixon, attorney for Republican challenger Neil, is expected to argue two things: that the election result is too close to call, and that a new election should be held. He also will re-urge his argument that the Travis County elections office incorrectly sent partial ballots to about 220 overseas voters because of they indicated  they were uncertain about their return to Texas. Buck Wood, Howard's attorney, says this follows procedures established by the Secretary of State; Nixon points to an SOS web page that indicates all overseas voters will be given a full ballot.

Also expect Nixon to also argue before the House Elections Committee -- where the dispute will land next -- that voters with suspended registrations should not be allowed to vote without signing a sworn statement of residency. "If people are allowed to vote with an SOR (statement of residency), then we've shot a hole wide open for the opportunity to cheat," Nixon said.

Even if Hartnett does not recommend a new election, Nixon believes the House committee should be interested in clarifying the election procedures at issue in the Howard-Neil race.

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