District Judge denies Duval County election recount request
A recount request in the November Duval County Tax Accessors election between incumbent candidate Robert Elizondo and Sylvia Rodriguez was denied by District Judge Manual Banales in Nueces County on Dec. 16. The dispute resulted in spent taxpayer dollars to resolve the issue.
The write-in candidate Sylvia Rodriguez filed for the recount with Duval County Elections Administrator Erica Gonzalez on Nov. 19 due to inaccurate ballot counts through the election administration office.
"My ballot counts changed three different times," Rodriguez said. "I paid with a personal check to have a manual recount in-house and I had zero intentions of the recount to go this far or to cost any county tax dollars. I wanted an accurate count for my own knowledge and paid for that out of my personal account."
Elizondo received 3,276 votes and Rodriguez won 825. The recount petition was administered by Elections Administrator Erica Gonzalez. The recount would have normally been requested by Duval County Judge Gilbert Saenz, but there was a conflict of interest as Rodriguez and Saenz are siblings.
Elizondo states he did not understand the grounds of the petition due to the votes not meeting the 10% difference.
"It concerned me that the county would pursue a petition that did not meet the requirements under the law, the conflict of interest of the County Judge and my opposing candidate being brother and sister and I felt I needed to do what I thought was right," Elizondo said.
After Rodriguez paid and filed for the recount, candidate Elizondo hired an attorney and filed a Temporary Restraining Order on Rodriguez's request. On the morning of Nov. 25, local Deputies stopped the recount and the case was escalated to District Judge Banales in Nueces County.
The case was dismissed and cause for denial by Banales included the count not meeting the 10% difference in votes. The recount application submitted by Rodriguez did not follow procedural requirements requesting the count be done manually and the payment by means of the personal check did not follow procedural law.
"I am not sure why the County decided to honor this petition for a recount with the legal errors it contained," Elizondo said. "I am not sure why the Duval County Attorney did not defend the Elections Administrator, in this case, resulting in taxpayers' dollars to defend her in court. I am glad it's finally over, but it was a total waste of time and waste of local tax dollars."
County Judge Saenz stated the recount petition was valid because the error could have been the result of the Election Administrator's Office and the electronic equipment used during the election. The candidate has the right to ask for a recount in this area of concern under the Election Code 212.029. I plan to introduce the suggestion for an Elections Committee to the Commissioner's Court meeting next month to help oversee the elections department and reduce these types of issues in the future.
County Treasurer Sylvia Lazo said the lawyer fees for the recount resulted in $5,000 of county tax dollars being used to defense the suit against the county's petition.