May 01, 2006
Strayhorn lawsuit against SOS to be heard today

In March, Carole Keeton Strayhorn filed a lawsuit against Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams to force him to start counting and verifying ballot petition signatures as they came in and not all at once beginning on May 11, which is the deadline for collection. Today that lawsuit will be heard in court.

Strayhorn's lawsuit primarily is intended to force Williams to speed the process of certifying independent candidate petitions.

She and [Kinky] Friedman say they should be allowed to submit petitions for signature verification as they come in.

Williams says the law requires that they all be submitted at once on or before the May 11 deadline.

He has said it could take up to two months after the deadline to certify whether either Strayhorn or Friedman will be on the November ballot.


Williams said that in the past it has taken two months to count and verify petition signatures. He said he hopes to do it more quickly this time, but he is putting perfection ahead of speed.

"I'd rather get something 100 percent right than 90 percent right," Williams said.

Interestingly, Williams tells a slightly different tale to the DMN, which points out that precedent is not necessarily on the SOS' side.

Mr. Williams' predecessors have used statistical sampling to certify candidates for the ballot. Democrat John Hannah used sampling for Kay Bailey Hutchison in her 1993 Senate race, and Republican Tony Garza followed the same procedure to certify Ross Perot for the 1996 presidential ballot.

But Mr. Williams said this year's race is different because there might be two or more independent candidates on the ballot, in addition to Mr. Perry and Democrat Chris Bell.

Under state law, voters can't sign petitions if they've voted in the primary. If a voter signed more than one petition, the one signed first counts.

Faced with that prospect, Mr. Williams said, his office has created a computer program with the names of all registered voters who did not vote in the primary or runoff elections. That list will be compared with an electronic database of the collected signatures.

A private firm, Tela Technologies of Houston, has been hired to enter the names from the petitions into a computer database. It has four weeks to complete the task.

"Once we get that back, it shouldn't take long," Mr. Williams said. "Say, 48 hours."
As I said before, I don't actually have a problem with entering and checking every signature. What I still don't understand is why Williams insists on waiting till May 11 to get started with the data entry, even if he thinks the whole process will take only four weeks plus 48 hours instead of two months. I can't think of any valid reason why the law would mandate the delay. Given everything else about Roger Williams - his fundraising for Rick Perry, his ambitions to run for office, his role in the bogus letter to taxpayers thing - it's pretty hard to see this as anything other than carrying water for the Governor.

Of course, given that today is already May 1, and that it will be at least another day or two before any injunction might get issued, the point is becoming moot. Strayhorn may have to settle for generating a precedent for the independents who follow her. Sorry, Carole.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 01, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack