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San Antonio District 7 City Council Election

On May 7, 2005, San Antonio held a city election for Mayor, ten City Council seats, and three propositions. In districts with more than two candidates for City Council, voters were to choose two candidates to be in the June 7 runoff. Early voter and election day voters used ES&S iVotronic electronic touch screen voting machines. ES&S did the ballot programming.

Read the saga and stay tuned for more as it develops.

June 30 Ms. Test provided written testimony to the Baker-Carter Commission Hearing in Houston, Texas. Her testimony is the same as her testimony on June 29 (below).

June 29 Ms. Test testified before the Election Assessment Hearing in Houston, Texas regarding the anomalies that occurred in the May 7 election. Her testimony is here:
Overview (54 KB pdf)
Full Report (280 KB pdf)

June 21 After stalling Ms. Test's open records request, the San Antonio Elections Department received a letter from ES&S rejecting the request. However, they addressed documents not requested and failed to address documents that were requested. Ms. Test has still not received some of the requested records, such as the event logs from the May 7 election.
ES&S Response (757 KB pdf)

June 7 San Antonio chose to use paper ballots over an electronic system for the runoff election because it cut the cost about in half.

May 24 The judge dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiffs were challenging “a method of voting” and that an election contest is not the appropriate venue. Ms. Test is considering her options.

May 19 A good day in court. The judge wants to move this quickly. The group is now collecting statements from people concerning problems they encountered voting. They are checking with Dan Wallach to see if he can do the testing.

May 18 Ms. Test filed an amended petition to the court, requesting that all voting devices used in the election be preserved in their secured condition, and that the runoff election be delayed until a judgment in the May 7 election is final.

May 15 Fred Rangel, another candidate in the District 7 race, concerned about the accuracy of the voting machines, joined with Cynthia Test's campaign group to form the Coalition for Voter Integrity and posted information about the problems in the election. The group has been asking voters who experienced errors and problems on the machines to call in and report them.

May 13 Ms. Test filed a lawsuit, alleging potential problems with Bexar County's electronic voting system, and requesting the votes be retallied or that "the election be declared void because the result cannot be determined and a new election be ordered held using paper ballots."
  Council OKs May 7 vote canvassing. San Antonio Express News. May 18, 2005. By Laura Jesse, Express-News Staff Writer.

May 12 The San Antonio Express-News briefly mentioned that "Cynthia Test, who was beaten out of a City Council District 7 runoff by 33 votes in Saturday's election, is asking for an investigation into Bexar County's electronic voting system, citing potential computer glitches."
  Campaign Notebook: City will switch to paper ballots for June 7 runoff. San Antonio Express-News. May 12, 2005.

May 11 The San Antonio Express-News called the May 7 election "the smoothest election yet using the county's electronic voting system."
  S.A. may return to paper ballots for runoffs. San Antonio Express News. May 11, 2005. By Elizabeth Allen.

May 10 Cynthia Test held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to discuss the electronic voting issues in the elections. The campaign reported to us that when people saw her on the news they called with concern for their votes. Other candidates also have become concerned about the accuracy of the count. Many people had not been aware of the problems with electronic voting and are very supportive of looking into the problems.

From her press advisory:
Cynthia A. Test, candidate for City Council District 7 will announce she is seeking options to be placed on the ballot for the run-off election. Test has received a number of phone calls from voters and concerned citizens expressing their will that she be included on the ballot.

“Numerous persons have called me complaining that there were too many problems with the electronic voting machines.” Test said. She also added that she will seek a re-count or an election suit in order to make sure the voters intent and will was not frustrated by the electronic voting machines.

“Problems with electronic voting machines have been well documented. There are errors. When a candidate is a quarter of one percent from the run-off, it makes voters stop and say, ‘we want our candidate on the ballot, too.’” Test has hired local election law expert Rolando Rios as her attorney in the matter.

May 9 The election was called to our attention by the campaign for Cynthia Test, who ran for the District 7 City Council seat.

They were concerned because while Ms. Test had been in second place throughout the evening and was in second place after 90% of the votes had reported, she moved to third place at the last hour and lost by 33 votes, 0.24%. They wondered about the margin of error on the ES&S iVotronic machines.

They also told us that voters complained:
They couldn't find candidates on the screen.
They had trouble reading the screen.
Their votes had been switched on the review screen.

VotersUnite! suggested data for them to request from the county for analysis, supplied them with information about some of problems encountered on iVotronics in other elections around the country, recommended that they try to get a court order to test the machines in election mode, and prepared an affidavit to submit with the lawsuit they were planning.

We found out later:
Machines in some precincts had broken down, including some of the last precincts to report totals.
One of the contests had been split between two screens: one candidate was on one screen and another was on the next screen.
There had been a 15% undervote in the City Council race in District 9, while the undervote in the other districts ranged from 3.48% to 5.28%.
The name of the District 7 candidate at the top of the list had been so high up on the screen that it was invisible to some voters. This candidate had been expected to win one of the top two positions but received only 5.86% of the vote. The candidate on the list below him had not been expected to do well, but she received the most votes.
Texas election code (129.001) requires that "each" voting machine be tested before each election. However, the elections office tested only randomly selected machines.

May 8 The San Antonio Express News reported that Guajardo will face Noel Suniga in the runoff for District 7 City Council.
Suniga, 37, an attorney and mediator, surged to a photo finish in the final moments to take second place in the eight-way contest.
  District 7: Guajardo, Suniga in runoff. San Antonio Express News. May 8, 2005. By Cindy Tumiel, Express-News Staff Writer.

May 7,
8:40 pm
WOAI News declared that "Elena Guajardo will face Cynthia Test in the runoff" for District 7 City Council.
  Castro, Hardberger in Runoff. WOAI.com. LAST UPDATE: 5/8/2005. By: Jim Forsyth.

April 26
During early voting, several voters reported that they couldn't find the City Council race on the screen. The elections office put posters up in the precincts with only two candidates for City Council.
  Editorial: Avoiding ballot confusion. San Antonio Express-News. April 26, 2005.

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or a place to hang your hat,
but it's something you do.
You participate.
If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.
~ Abbie Hoffman

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