Questions over the unusual outcome of a runoff election in southeast Fort Worth made its way into a courtroom Wednesday.
Charlotte Hogan-Price lost her bid to be the next Justice of the Peace for Precinct 8 to Lisa Woodard. But Woodard's win immediately prompted questions over the results.
Usually, the candidate with the most in-person votes ends up winning the election. Hogan-Price won the early vote and election-day vote by 181 votes, or 56 percent to 44 percent. But she lost the race because she trailed in the mail-in vote by a wide margin: 652 to 335, or 66 percent to 33 percent.
Earlier this month, Hogan-Price sued Woodard alleging that she was elected through "fraudulent, absentee mail-in ballot voting practices" to gain votes that would otherwise be considered invalid.
(Texas Watchdog recently published a series of stories on mail-in ballot fraud in South Texas.)
On Wednesday, Hogan Price's attorney, Dan Wyde, presented her case in the 153rd District Court in downtown Fort Worth.
Most of the day was taken up by testimony from Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn and Early Voting Coordinator Yolanda Ramirez. Both were questioned by Wyde as to whether any of the accepted mail-in ballots were hand-delivered to the Tarrant County Elections Office. Both insisted that such ballots are invalid and wouldn't have been accepted.
Wyde pointed to mail-in ballots from the race that didn't have stamps or had stamps but no marking that showed it was processed by the postal service.
"I don't know how to rebut that," Raborn said. "All I can tell you is we've had mail in our mailboxes that had no stamps on it."
Wyde showed Ramirez mail-in ballots which he argued should have not been counted including ones where the signature on the mail-in ballot application didn't appear to match the signature on the envelope for the mail-in ballot.
Ramirez said it was up to the Early Voting Ballot Board to determine whether a ballot was invalid. She stressed that the Ballot Board members were not handwriting experts.
The next witness was Weldon Smith, a deputy constable assigned to the Poly Sub-Courthouse, the same building that houses the Justice of the Peace court that Woodard and Hogan-Price both want to lead.
Smith testified that he saw someone on two different days carrying a "clear plastic trash bag" half-filled with envelopes and some of them appeared to be the kind of carrier envelopes used to hold mail-in ballots. In both cases, the person carrying the bag worked for the JP court, Smith said.
After a fascinating day of testimony, the case will be on hold for two weeks. The next day of trial is scheduled for June 9. Wyde said he still has one more witness. Then lawyer Harold Hammett gets to present Woodard's side of the case.