Rusk City Council talks charter; tables sign ordinance

RUSK – An election inspector's report for a May 4 municipal election in Rusk reveals a smooth, “by the book” process at the polls and in the central counting station at Rusk City Hall.

Alleged irregularities on the first day of early voting (April 22) spurred two separate groups to request a state-appointed elections inspector the May 4 election.

The report, sent May 22 to Rusk city officials, was filed by Inspector Michael Nevins of the State of Texas Secretary of State Elections Division.

Nevins, however, did note occurrences at the polling site – held at the Rusk ISD administrative office – and at the central counting site.

While at the polling site, “I was pulled to the side 2 to 3 times by citizens and poll watchers,” he reported. “One of the citizens who was to be a poll watcher was a lawyer and tried to tell me that the judge had to be watched. I instructed him that if he had any issues, to call the Secretary of State office and report it. The judge was doing everything by the book. When asked questions I did not know, I would have them call the Sec. of State office for clarifications. There was no tampering of ballots and fortunately no issues with poll watchers.

Regarding the counting process, Nevins reported that “the contact information I had was incorrect. Central counting was held at City Hall.”

No unusual activity took place during the central counting process, he said, noting “there were two mail in ballots that were disqualified due to signatures not matching the originals sent in AND the signatures on both mail in ballots were the same handwriting. There were three others rejected due to no signature card on file.”

Nevins also alluded to a problem of incomplete information released during a previous election – no specific date was given for when the alleged action took place – during the counting period. He noted that this not an issue on May 4: “Poll watchers were there and (adhered to) the judge request to waiting until the numbers were posted before leaving the counting station. They had them all running out and telling everyone the count before it was posted, last time.”

A separate request for an inspector to monitor the polling site at Rusk Municipal Courtroom during the early voting period was denied, because “we do not have enough resources in our office to send election inspectors to polling sites during the early voting period,” said Texas Secretary of State Communications Director Sam Taylor.

City officials confirmed that one voter cast an electronic vote on the wrong ballot, and in a separate incident, a voter “caused the series of events to occur,” resulting in the temporary dismissal of poll watchers.

One request for election inspectors due to problems of “voter intimidation by recall candidate(s); voter intimidation by poll watchers (standing over voters & election judge); poll watchers not trained; poll watchers walking around talking and also writing names of voters” was signed by 15 registered voters led by Kim Beathard, who is part of a recall effort to remove District 4 Councilman Ken Ferrara and District 5 Councilman Jan Pate from office

A second request was filed by a group led by Jackson and includes Parsons, according to copies of a request for inspectors filed with the state.

On May 4, voters ousted District 4 Councilmen Ken Ferrara by a 123 to 42 vote, while District 5 Councilman Jan Pate lost the recall election by a vote of 146 to 64. In mid-May, Martha Neely was unanimously voted in as the new District 4 council member, while the new District 5 council member is Frances Long.

Meanwhile, Taylor said the two complaints of possible election code violations in Rusk “are still under review by our office to determine whether or not they warrant a referral to the Texas Attorney General’s office.”

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