December 12, 2008
Dems drop legal challenge to Harper-Brown

The recount in HD105 is over, and now so is the legal wrangling, at least as far as the outcome of that race is concerned.

State Democrats will not seek a restraining order against Dallas County elections officials over votes they believe should have been counted in the tight state House District 105 race, a Democratic Party attorney said Tuesday. They also will not seek to have the election voided or a new one ordered.

The decisions remove courtroom challenges to three-term Republican incumbent Linda Harper-Brown taking her seat when the Legislature convenes next month. Her district covers most of Irving.


State Democrats, meanwhile, still plan to pursue the lawsuit against Dallas County elections officials over electronic voting machines.

"What we seek is to fix it so everyone's votes count in the future, so the machine can't do what it did this time," said Clay Jenkins, an attorney for Mr. Romano.

He's talking about "emphasis votes" here. You know how I feel about that, so let me just say that whatever the merits of this suit are, it's not a bad idea to clarify the rules and make sure everyone knows what gets counted and what doesn't. I think that's the Legislature's job, but I don't mind them being spurred on by a lawsuit. I also think there's room for improvement and standardization in voting machine interfaces, which ought to help reduce any voter confusion about "emphasis" voting, and if that comes out of this suit, then that will be a good thing.

One last point:

Mr. Jenkins said poll watchers found several instances of "emphasis" or "deselected" votes during a recount in the race last week, but not enough to change the outcome of the race.

As it happens, I just received a spreadsheet from reader Blank, who did a thorough analysis of precinct data in Dallas and Tarrant counties. According to Blank, Barack Obama won HD105 with 52.1% of the vote. Rick Noriega trailed John Cornyn in HD105 by 24 votes, which is to say a margin almost identical to Harper-Brown's lead over Romano. Whatever you think about the whole "emphasis votes" thing, this was definitely a winnable seat. Maybe next time.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2008 to Election 2008
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