Raymondville candidate questions recount; Claims county risked tampering

MGN Online

RAYMONDVILLE — A candidate is questioning the integrity of a recount of the May 4 election in which Mayor Gilbert Gonzales defeated her by about 700 votes.

Yesterday’s four-hour recount, for which candidate Vanessa Tijerina paid $400, found Gonzales the winner of his second term, with about 1,231 votes to her 525 votes.

The recount gave Tijerina five additional votes while adding two votes to Gonzales’ tally.

However, Tijerina claims the Willacy County Elections Department compromised yesterday’s recount by placing electronic ballot images on a USB drive.

But Willacy County Elections Administrator Christina Torres said representatives of the company handling voting machines instructed her to use the USB drive to print the ballots for the recount.

Sam Taylor, communications director for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, did not respond to a message requesting comment.

At City Hall, City Secretary Delma Garza said the city had never held a recount following an election in which the two candidates’ vote margin was so great.

After the recount, Tijerina claimed a lack of integrity compromised the election’s final results.

“You’re not going to tell me the integrity of the election was not (compromised),” she said.

Tijerina, a nurse who has locked horns with City Hall in the past, argued the elections department, which conducted the May 4 election and recount for the city, used a USB drive to hold the images of the election’s electronic ballots instead of printing those ballots from a voting machine.

“The Election Code says you’re supposed to print out ballots from the machine for the recount,” Tijernia said after the recount. “What you should see is every single ballot coming from a protected source.”

Tijerina believes the USB drive could have been tampered with.

“Anything could be added, deleted or manipulated on a USB drive,” she said. “There’s integrity that needs to be maintained. The chain of custody was obviously not maintained.”

However, Torres said Austin-based Hart InterCivic, the company that handles the county’s voting machines, instructed her to use a USB drive to print the ballots for the recount.

“This is the way we were told to do it,” Torres said. “They walked us through it. I had to save (the ballot images) to the USB drive to print it out.”

Tijerina said she requested the recount to determine procedures used during the election and recount.

“What I wanted to see was their procedure. I wanted to see the ballots,” she said. “I knew we’d see the majority of votes to my opponent.”

Tijerina said she is considering filing a lawsuit against the elections department.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com