Hays County’s voting issues—1,816 ballots verified missing and some pointing to evidence that thousands of other votes went uncounted during November’s election—may be heading to court.
Hays County General Counsel Mark Kennedy confirmed Monday the county received a litigation hold—a document requesting the county maintain and preserve records related to the subject of potential litigation—late last week.
“I am writing on behalf of my clients Jacob Montoya, Sean Bolock, and Jeffrey Narvaiz,” lawyer Jerad Navjar states in the letter. “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that I expect litigation will soon be pending which concerns Hays County, Texas, and officers and employees of Hays County (“Potential Defendants”). The claim concerns the 2016 general election.”
In the litigation hold received by the county, Navjar requested the county preserve documents and equipment related to the 2016 general election, including computer audit logs, incident reports, handwritten notebooks of election staff, and employee files for past and current elections department staff, including former Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan, Information Technology Director Jeff McGill and current Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson.
The county will host a workshop at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Hays County Courthouse, 111 E. San Antonio St., San Marcos, to discuss the potential of buying new voting equipment. Last week, the Hays County Election Commission accepted a county committee’s recommendation to purchase new equipment in hopes of curbing future elections issues.
Jacob Montoya, who ran for San Marcos mayor in the November election, is a plaintiff in the suit. Montoya said he believes the county’s voting issues are damaging efforts to increase voter turnout.
“Do you think the younger generation is going to vote after something like this?” Montoya said. “My vote didn’t matter. First of all, they didn’t count it, and then when they did find it, they didn’t count it anyway.”
The 1,816 missing ballots were not confirmed missing until after the votes had been canvassed. Under state law, the missing ballots cannot be added to the final results because the results have already been canvassed.
The issues have led some Hays County residents to call for the county to purchase new voting equipment that keeps an auditable paper trail in addition to digital storage of voting records.
“I would love paper ballots,” Montoya said. “There’s no doubt about it. That’s my personal opinion. On the larger issue, my goal with the suit is that we would continue to make sure that every vote does matter.”
“You’ve got numbers all over the place.”
—Former Austin City Council Candidate Laura Pressley on irregularities with Hays County’s voting totals from the November election.
The intent to file a lawsuit comes after Laura Pressley, a former candidate for Austin City Council, produced evidence she says indicates thousands of more ballots may be missing from the county’s November 2016 election totals beyond what the county has already acknowledged.
According to Pressley’s comparison of the canvass report from Election Day voting and the number of votes cast on ballot machines, 880 ballots were missing from the count. There were also 677 ballots missing from the ballot by mail totals, and 598 ballots missing from the early voting ballot totals, according to Pressley’s analysis.
“You’ve got numbers all over the place,” Pressley said.
Calls to the office of Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson were not immediately returned on Monday afternoon.
Pressley has faced election issues of her own. In 2014 she ran for Austin City Council. The returns from a runoff election indicated she received 1,563 votes to Greg Casar by 2,854 votes. Pressley contested the election and continues to fight the result. Her lawsuit is advancing through the Texas Supreme Court, she said.
Pressley said she understands that people will say she has an agenda in helping Hays County residents contest the voting issues, but the numbers speak for themselves, she said.
“I just tell my ego to take a back seat, and we have work to do,” Pressley said. “When you show people what the issues are, there are real issues, and they can see it for themselves.”