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District Judge Susan Reed has denied an election contest petition filed by Mary Moore to void the May Democratic Party primary runoff against frontrunner Rochelle Camacho.
Moore and Camacho faced each other in the run-off for the nomination to the November general election ballot for the office of Frio County judge.
The Monday, August 1, decision by the senior judge came after a day of testimony by Camacho, Moore, Frio County Elections Administrator Carlos Segura, Election Judge Grace Perez, Adriann Lozano and Segura’s assistant on Friday, July 29.
Included in Reed’s judgement were three pages of findings of fact and conclusions of law that highlighted what she believed to be “massive mistakes” made by the election administrator’s office.
According to the document, Judge Reed notes that during the runoff election two ‘Oath of Assistance’ forms were used, one dated 12/2021 and the other 1/2/2022, and that they differed in content. The 2022 form does not have a signature line to identify the voter who is requesting assistance.
An additional form, ‘Information of Person that Provided Transportation to Seven or more Votes for Curb-side voting’, only identifies the assistant and does not identify the voter for whom transportation or assistance was rendered.
“It cannot be cross-referenced against the oath of assistance,” the judge’s finding reads. “In at least nine entries Roselle Ramirez indicates in addition to providing transportation she also functioned as an assistant. The forms, the way they were filled out, and the changes made to the 1/22 make it difficult to accurately identify the voters.”
Judge Reed also said Segura admitted that he was busy filling out grant applications and failed to routinely audit the work of the election judges, and that he failed to notice the mistake.
“He has deservedly admitted the mistake both publicly and before the court,” the judge said. “Had he checked more carefully, he may have discovered the errors in her entries and ensured the combination forms were correctly being filled out.”
Segura admitted that when it was brought to his attention by Moore during the election, he took no action to scrutinize Ramirez’ actions and simply gave Moore a handbook.
The court found that the individuals conducting the election did not properly enter or require information on the combination form and early voting roster.
“The officials claimed that the line was not big enough to enter all the information and the form had carbons and made it difficult to use the backside of the form,” the document reads. “The election judge ignored the requirement and was too lazy to write on the back. This was a failure on the part of the election officials and has led to this contest and questions. It was systemic and not isolated. It was a massive mistake.”
Reed concluded that the changes in forms coupled by mistakes made by Segura has made it impossible to determine with any accuracy the number of votes which should be excluded under the contest by using the combination form.
The senior judge said it would be an undue burden on the voter as well as the parties to subpoena every voter over whether they used an assistant and the assistance rendered.
According to the document, Segura excuses his mistakes by claiming the jurisdiction is a small town and everyone knows everybody. The elections administrator claims ex-parte information could be used to determine who was assisted and by whom.
“The court concludes this should be disregarded as only an assumption,” Reed said of Segura’s answer.
The court found that Rosella Ramirez signed a 12/2021 form as a voter and printed her name as assistant numerous times. On those same pages there are entries by other voters and assistants which have different signatures for voter and printed name of the assistant.
Reed noted that Camacho has an identical twin sister, Adriann Ramirez, and that the pair are often misidentified.
The district judge provided a recent example of an incident immediately following the May 24 primary runoff, when Moore reportedly hugged Ramirez thinking she was Camacho.
“The court concludes Ramirez acting as an assistant to voters gives rise an appearance of impropriety,” the judge said. “However, legislature has failed to address the relationship of a candidate and assistant’s relationship.
The failure of the forms, the negligence and mistaken actions of the election officials to match the assistant to the voter and to ensure the combination form was properly executed makes it difficult to be able to identify or discover fraud and illegal activity, which is a key to determining an election contest and an appropriate number of votes to disregard as a remedy.”
In order for Moore to void the election, she would have to show that illegal votes were counted and prove different results to those that have been reached.
Reed noted that because two forms were used, some voters could be cross-referenced, but Moore did not call any of them to the witness stand.
The findings suggest that the oath of assistance entries submitted by Ramirez should be rejected but are insufficient in changing the outcome of the election.
“The court finds there were mistakes made in this election,” Reed noted. “However, applying the applicable requirement of proof and using the form together, the court finds that the contestant has not met her burden of clear and convincing evidence that the result would have been different.”
Camacho will face independent candidate Jose Asuncion on the ballot in November.