A recall petition failed twice to remove Councilwoman Linda DeLeon. After the first count, City Secretary Becky Garza said it failed by 22 signatures. A recount failed but by a different number, 41 signatures. Those different counts have raised questions about City Hall's process.
That is when NewsChannel 11 started hunting for someone to review the petition, someone from outside of City Hall. Our investigation took us to Austin to a man named John Hatch who has 30 years of experience with Texas elections.
Hatch is the partner of a political workhorse called, Texas Petition Strategies. We sent him everything we had; the petition, the city's eliminated list of signatures, and a copy of all registered voters in District One, the very place where 672 people signed a petition wanting to remove Linda DeLeon from office.
Hatch says that, after his review, the petition still failed. But, it wasn't by 22 signatures or 41 signatures like the city said. "We believe they came within 485 of meeting the 494 signatures to get it on the ballot," said Hatch.
That means it came up nine short. So, where's the difference? "We found a number of cases where we believe the city was too stringent in throwing out dates of birth," said Hatch.
Hatch says from what he could see, if the city couldn't make it out, they threw it out.
"For example: there was a person whose date of birth was listed as 5-24-56. Well, when we looked that person up we could see their DOB was in the month of May, that their birthday was 20-something and they were born in 50-something. We could make out the five and the two and the five of the year. We couldn't make out the last two digits. But once you figured it out, those two digits, you then could see that it was 24 and 56. They city didn't allow that and quite frankly that's penmanship," said Hatch.
Hatch says he did throw out a handful of signatures because the signer put the current date for their DOB. But he say, when he found small mistakes on the DOB, and it seemed to be off one number, he included those signatures.
"There's one key model that we have in this industry; when in doubt, err on the side of the voter. Most importantly, there are a number of federal and state court cases that pretty much go down the line of, what was the voter's intent? And so, if the voter's intent was to sign that petition to call a recall and you can validate that signature by other means, the signature should count," he said.
Hatch says in conclusion, "The City of Lubbock should review its policy on validation and determine a more reasonable approach to accepting signatures particularly when the date of birth and date signed are the stated reasons for denial."
Hatch also feels because voter registration information is open to the public "the petitioners should have verified and completed missing information such as the date of signing and voter registration number."
As for the City, they released a statement Tuesday in response to this investigation; "The City stands by its review of the recall petition. We have used the charter provisions and state law to determine the validity, or invalidity, of each signature."
This expert felt there were enough registered voters on the petition to force a recall election. He told NewsChannel 11 there were at least 11 signatures that could have been valid signatures, but because the signers gave either wrong or inconsistent information, they were thrown out.
Remember petition organizers want DeLeon removed from office because organizers have said they don't think DeLeon is doing a good job representing the people of District One down at City Hall.
(Hatch interview provided to us by New8 Austin.)
|Final Analysis of the Texas Petition Strategies Review of the Lubbock Recall Petition|
NewsChannel 11 hired a petition expert out of Austin to take a look at Linda DeLeon recall petition and here are his findings.