Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.
Orange Grove Journal
District Judge Nelva Gonzalez-Ramos issued a written ruling on Tuesday concerning the election races for Jim Wells County Pct. 3 Commissioner and Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace.
Her ruling calls for new elections in both races, to take place Tuesday, June 17. Early voting will begin June 2.
Jim Wells County Elections Administrator Pearlie Jo Valadez said she received a copy of the judge’s order late Tuesday, as soon as it was faxed to District Judge Richard Terrell’s office.
County officials received word on Monday that a ruling would be forthcoming calling for new elections in both contested races, but Tuesday’s written ruling made that decision official, Valadez said.
In the County Commissioner Pct. 3 race, J.C. Perez III defeated incumbent Oswald Alanis by two votes, but Alanis contested the election alleging several voters were prevented from voting for him.
In the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace race, Guadalupe Martinez defeated Juan Rodriguez Jr. by nine votes, and Rodriguez later contested the election alleging fraud.
Testimony in the justice of the peace contest centered on mail-in ballots that attorneys for Rodriguez argued were submitted illegally.
In her final judgement, Judge Gonzalez-Ramos determined that Rodriguez had “presented clear and convincing evidence that at least 11 illegal votes were cast in the election.”
“The court further finds that, based on the evidence of illegal votes, it cannot ascertain the true outcome of the election,” the judgment states.
With the verdict rendered in favor of Rodriguez, the election was declared void and a new election was ordered.
Testimony in the commissioner’s race centered on several individuals who claimed they were denied their right to vote for Alanis when they were placed in a different precinct without their knowledge.
Judge Gonzalez-Ramos determined there was “clear and convincing evidence” that mistakes were made which affected the outcome of the election.
“Voters Laura Hatton and Jesus Garcia reside in Commissioner’s Court Precinct 3, but were prevented from voting for Contestant Alanis because Hatton was mistakenly placed in Precinct 2 and Garcia was mistakenly placed in Precinct 4,” the final judgement states.
Alanis met with Valadez at her office Tuesday to review questions he had about a new election. Alanis said he can’t speak about the JP race, but there is a real buzz growing in the northern part of Jim Wells County over the new Pct. 3 Commissioner election, he said.
“I’ve had about 30 people come up to me, expressing their desire to register at Pearlie Jo’s office for the new election,” Alanis said. “People are getting excited about having another chance.”
Early voting in the new election will take place at the Jim Wells County Courthouse and Orange Grove City Hall. Valadez said she would personally oversee election activity at the Orange Grove location.
Valadez’s office is currently working on readying for separate school board and municipal elections in Agua Dulce, Premont, Orange Grove and Pernitas Point on May 10. Early voting for those elections begins in late April.
Christopher Maher contributed to this report.