Numbers change, outcome doesn’t in Brewster recount
By RICHARD MARK GLOVER
ALPINE – The number changed but the outcome didn’t in a Brewster County vote recount Monday in the Democratic Party primary election race for Brewster County Commissioner precinct 3. Incumbent Ruben Ortega remains the front-runner, and in another election issue, he was cleared of any wrongdoing for transporting ballots in his own election.
“It’s still Vega and Ortega,” said Brewster County Clerk Berta Martinez.
Ortega lost one vote to 210, Eduardo Vega remained at 125 and Marcos Parades, who petitioned for the recount, picked up 3 votes to 121.
“There was never a notion of wrong doing,” said Parades. “It was just a close race and there is potential for error. If the (vote) difference is within 10 percent it’s not unreasonable to ask for a recount.”
Wrong doing by Ortega’s ballot transport at the beginning of early voting was cleared after several phone calls by Brewster County officials to the Texas Secretary of State elections division.
“It was inappropriate for Commissioner Ortega to be asked to carry blank ballots in a ballot box with other supplies from Alpine to Marathon because he was a candidate named on those ballots,” said Brewster County Democratic chairperson Mary Bell Lockhart. “However, it apparently wasn’t illegal.”
Lockhart and former Brewster County Democratic Party chairperson Dale Christopherson have advocated for the return of an Elections Officer, an office abolished several years ago after major election issues surfaced.
“Several of us believe that this is one of those mistakes that might be avoided if Brewster County returned to having an Election Administrator,” said Lockhart. “An EA would have moved those election materials themselves or had Sheriff’s Deputies or Constables deliver and pick up the materials. Since the EA position was eliminated in 2007, the Tax Assessor-Collector has had responsibility for voter registration and the County Clerk has responsibility for the conduct of elections. This has resulted in a less organized system where people who have other full-time duties are called upon to do this as well. Everyone is working diligently without ill intent, but there is bipartisan agreement that it is an organizational structure that needs to be improved.”
Parades also had comments about the administration of the election and the recent re-districting in Brewster County.
“People in the same household were given different precincts,” Parades said. “A precinct line right through the middle of some houses? Come on. People don’t know when they’re being gerrymandered. The officials said it was up to the voters to get it straight. I think it might be time for the county to consider a full time elections official and not just another task for the Clerk.”
Meantime, Martinez explained how the recount produced slightly different results than the original count.
“Two mail-in ballots were sent on the deadline by registered mail but our offices were closed when they tried to deliver,” said Martinez. “They showed up on today’s (Monday) recount. I don’t know where the other one came from.”
Parades, a retired Big Bend National Park Ranger, has revised his summer plans.
I’m ready to put it (the election) to bed and throw my support behind Vega,” said Parades. “Besides, I’ve got a permit to fish the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It’s time for some paddling.”
The run-off election between Ortega and Vega is scheduled for July 31. The winner will face Republican Party challenger Ben Ramirez of Marathon in November.
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