Lawsuit filed in Hockley Co. Sheriff Runoff

HOCKLEY COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - The fight continues over who will be the Republican nomination for the Hockley County Sheriff in the November elections. On Friday R.C. Cheek filed a lawsuit against Paul Scarborough saying laws were broken during the election and several questions surround the recount process. Scarborough says he will respond to the lawsuit contesting the validity of the claims.

Originally R.C. Cheek won the Republican candidate vote for Hockley County Sheriff with 1,182 votes against current Sheriff Scarborough's 1,181 votes. Two weeks ago Scarborough filed for a recount. During that recount the tables turned and Scarborough became the new Republican nomination by one vote with 1,181 against Cheek's 1,180 votes.

Cheek's lawsuit now keeps him in the fight for Sheriff, as he says the election was unfair for voters in Hockley County. "It's about preserving the democratic process," Cheek's attorney James Palomo said "We want to make sure there's some accountability in the way the election was held."

Palomo says during the primary election Hockley County Republican Chair Pat Cowan illegally closed five polling locations that consequently hindered people from voting. Palomo says Cowan states she closed the polls to help save money, but Palomo and Cheek question this move.

"We have sworn affidavits from several voters who said their regular voting polls were closed, they didn't have the proper notice, they didn't know where to go vote, and it's just a little suspicious that those particular polling places were closed in areas where Cheek currently lives and where he grew up," Palomo said.

In addition to hindering voters from casting their ballots, Palomo states in the lawsuit this clearly violates the Texas Election Code because in some cases the polls were closed on Election Day and not enough notice was given.

The lawsuit also cites the Texas Election Code only allows for the consolidation of precincts if there is less than 500 registered voters in that area. Palomo says two of the precincts Cowan closed had over 1,500 voters each.

Another violation, Palomo says Cowan did not have the sole authority to close and consolidate the polls. "According to the election code, she didn't have the authority to do that on her own. Yet, as far as we know she was the one to do so," he said.

Palomo says Cheek is also unhappy with the recount from August 88th that took away his Republican nomination. The lawsuit states that during the recount "one of Mr. Cheek's representatives attempted to sit near one of the counters to observe the counting process for accuracy. Cowan informed Cheek's representative that sitting next to the counters were illegal."

Palomo says the Texas Election Code states representatives are allowed to sit closely and observe the officers who are counting the ballots to verify if they're tallied correctly.

Then Palomo says there is the question of missing votes and how provisional ballots were counted. "In the recount Mr. Cheek lost two votes. Apparently there's two blank ballots that came up, and neither Cheek or his representatives at the recount were allowed to see the blank ballots," Palomo said. "There shouldn't be any secrets when it comes to a recount."

Palomo says this lawsuit should quickly go before a judge to decide what the next step will be.

When KCBD contacted Cowan she would not comment on the lawsuit but did say she was getting an attorney from Austin.

Scarborough says he will respond to the claims of the lawsuit Wednesday morning.

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