Recount likely in Martindale city elections

Austin American-Statesman

Martindale voters thought they were finished with the problems of a ballot mix-up in May that caused the city’s election results to be thrown out.

After the Nov. 3 election, newly elected Mayor Randy Bunker even invited the town to his home on Tuesday to celebrate his narrow 91-82 victory with hot dogs and Frito pie. But, just before the party, Bunker learned that the results from this election are in question, too.

An email sent Tuesday morning by City Clerk Sylvia Gomez alerted former Mayor Doyle Mosier, Bunker and the four unopposed City Council candidates that they need to go to district court for a hearing Thursday morning. It is likely that a recount will be held in the afternoon.

“We’re just not catching any breaks on this one,” Mosier said.

According to Gomez’s email, Caldwell County Elections Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf found a discrepancy between the number of votes and number of ballots cast in the city races. It seems that poll workers entered some of the results for the electronic voting machines twice, double-counting the votes in some precincts, she said.

According to the Texas secretary of state’s office, Ohlendorf was advised to seek a court order for a recount of the ballots cast in early voting and on Election Day.

“They are following the Secretary of State’s recommendation to do a recount for both early voting and election day to keep the integrity of this election,” Gomez said in the email.

Martindale’s November election was essentially a do-over to remedy mistakes that were made on May ballots.

A Caldwell County state District Court judge nullified May’s results when it was determined that a flawed ballot allowed those in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction to vote for mayor, while city residents were allowed to vote on ETJ issues. Bunker won that election by five votes, but was ousted in September when the election was voided.

Mosier was reinstated as mayor when the election was tossed out in September and remains in the post despite two apparent losses at the polls. Bunker was supposed to be sworn in as mayor Tuesday, but will have to wait again.

There were also problems in May with the four unopposed City Council races. The four candidates’ names were listed on May’s ballot, but without boxes for voters to check, meaning no votes were officially cast.

Last week’s election was supposed to clear up the problems and clarify whom the voters want. But instead the drama continues with a likely recount on Thursday.

“Honestly, I don’t know if it will have an effect on the outcome,” Mosier said.

Elections are rare in the city of about 1,200 people. The only other contested election in the past three years in Martindale was in May 2014 to renew the city’s sales tax for street repairs. Only nine people voted.

Just after last week’s election, Martindale was hit by major flooding. Bunker vowed to address the residential damage from the heavy rain, but there is little he can do until a mayor is sworn in.

“It seems like the saga never ends,” Bunker said.

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