There was no announcement when the lawsuit was filed, there was no press conference, only secrecy and avoidance of the media by Sigee and Democrat officials after Howard alerted everyone to the lawsuit over a week after its filing. Why such secrecy if Sigee and his benefactors are proud of their actions? Why the avoidance of the public eye, the media, and all efforts to ask the motivation of these actions?
Howard originally defeated Sigee in November 2010 by an overwhelming margin (55.26% to 44.74%). Howard received 70% of the non-straight party vote overcoming a 2,353 straight-party advantage for Democrats. In 2012, Howard again received over 70% of the non-straight party vote accumulating a record number of individual votes and overcoming a nearly 12,000 straight-party advantage for Democrats. Sigee, by comparison, received only 8,507 votes by name, less than 10% of the total vote and was the worst performing candidate for Democrats on the ballot.
Straight-Party Democrat 18,144 34,826
Straight-Party Republican 15,761 23,180
J. Shane Howard
Thomas P. Sigee
Independents and non-straight party Democrats favored Howard over Sigee in both elections. In 2010 and 2012, Howard received nearly half of his votes from non-straight party voters while in 2010, Sigee received only 25% of his vote total from non-straight party, and lost even more support by garnering less than 20% of these same voters in 2012. Therefore, less than 1 out of every 5 votes cast by Democrats and independents were for Sigee by name while Howard received nearly 1 out of every 2.
The 2012 election total was close, but not between Sigee and Howard. Rather, this election was a close race between a powerful machine and Howard. And Howard won because of the people - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents - outvoting a political machine driven by big money and questionable campaign tactics.
The Recount Fiasco
Sigee filed an electronic recount petition on the final day allowed by law, November 16. He was required to deposit $11,000 to fund the recount. In his press conference, Sigee told the media that it was "none of your business" where he obtained the funds and then stated he had "moved around some accounts" to fund the deposit. He refused to answer additional questions about the money, finally lost his temper, and ended the press conference. Ultimately, he withdrew his petition on November 20 claiming he had made an error in asking for an electronic recount instead of a hand recount. He conceded the election to Howard the same day.
Sigee had 10 days after the election to conduct research and figure out his next steps before filing the recount petition. The Secretary of State has numerous resources and guides to recounts, and the Texas Election Code is clear. The SOS also has attorneys on staff who are very responsive to requests for guidance. Sigee did not avail himself of these easy-to-access/understand resources or he did not understand them. Either of which is disturbing regardless. Sigee claims he received "bad advice" from the County Clerk who has no purview in recounts. Sigee asked for advice from someone not actually associated with the process and then blamed her. Additionally, the petition is clear as to what type of recount the petitioner seeks (manual or electronic; Sigee clearly selected "electronic" on his petition) and the law does not allow for one to change his mind on details. Finally, the attorney who has been retained by Sigee for the lawsuit was available as early as November 13, the day provisional ballots were counted. Randall "Buck" Wood, a longtime Democrat appointee and operative, was on site at the meeting of the Early Voting Ballot Board. Why wasn't his expertise sought? The head of the Jefferson County Democratic Party has been in office for decades and is also an attorney. Why wasn't his expertise sought? Why didn't Sigee call the Secretary of State? Did Sigee consult the resources readily and easily available to candidates? Or did he not understand the information provided on their website despite seeking office to be one of the County's two elections officials? Instead, he blamed the County Clerk and the Secretary of State for a conscious choice he clearly made, was within his control but would not generate the outcome he sought.
The Provisional Ballots - DPS Registrations
596 provisional ballots were cast in the 2012 election. 61 were ultimately counted by the Early Voting Ballot Board (EVBB). This represents 11% of the provisional votes cast when only 1-3% are typically counted in past elections. For example, in the 2010 election, 194 provisional ballots were cast with only 1 counted. In 2004, 287 provisional ballots were cast with only 9 counted. There is ample anecdotal evidence that individuals had been told by Democrat activists to go vote regardless of their registration status. This is unethical but not unusual by those who profit from uncertainty and chaos.
Provisional ballots are cast by voters who are not registered to vote, have appeared on election day at the wrong precinct and refuse to go to their proper precinct, or whom are registered elsewhere. The lawsuit contends that the approximately 520 provisional ballots not counted included voters who notionally registered to vote at a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in time for the election. However, this claim is baseless; a simple discussion and understanding of the provisional balloting process would have borne this out. Yet, the Voter Registrar has received no requests for information or meetings since the EVBB meeting on November 13. Why not?
DPS did fail to transmit some voter registrations to the Voter Registrar in a timely manner. However, the review conducted by the Voter Registrar during the provisional ballot process accounted for those individuals, documentation was attached, and their votes counted by the EVBB. A local Democrat activist who also served on the EVBB made a claim to the media on the day Sigee filed his recount petition that this issue had not been addressed...she recanted and withdrew the comments when it was pointed out to her that she knew this was not the case and that she had been part of the process to review provisional ballots. She acknowledged the error and apologized to the media for misleading them. But narratives are powerful things, regardless of the truth. The DPS registrations have been accounted for thanks to the diligent efforts of the Voter Registrar's staff. There has been no claim anywhere that DPS registrations were not recorded, only that some were not transmitted in a timely manner. DPS has records of these transactions and those records were obtained and attached to all provisional claiming to have registered at DPS. Any claims otherwise are based on ignorance at best and an outright effort at deception at worst. If this lawsuit is actually tried, these claims will be shown for what they are in full light.
The Provisional Ballots - Incorrect Voting Precinct
The lawsuit claims that the County Clerk's Election Judges did not direct voters to their correct precincts on election day when they arrived at the wrong location. Every Election Judge and Clerk undergoes extensive training and has participated in multiple elections. The requirement to vote in your precinct on Election Day is not new. Indeed, after exhausting 11 days of Early Voting wherein one can vote at any of multiple locations around the County, this claim is absurd. 94 voters recorded provisional ballots after refusing to go to their proper voting location on Election Day. A claim of incompetence or malfeasance by the County Clerk is simply false and again, seeks to create chaos and uncertainty where none exists. The Election Code provides a process to individuals and candidates to assert irregularities, Yet, Sigee, even with the presence of this mysterious Austin attorney, did not make any claims to the SOS. Why not? Again, should the case be tried, testimony will reveal these claims to be egregious assaults on the integrity of a well-run process.
This lawsuit represents the very bottom of the gutter for a machine already prone to playing in the gutter with classless, racist, and unethical practices. Countless Democrat voters in predominantly African-American neighborhoods were told that their votes for the President would not count unless they voted straight party. That any vote for another party's candidate in another office would cancel their vote for the President. Voters in predominantly black and poor precincts were greeted with large signs that simply said, "Vote Straight Democratic." These signs appeared in no other precincts of higher income black or white constituents. Unregistered voters were told to vote although they were not registered. The Lamar Student Government Association was turned into a political machine for one party with its "LU Votes" initiative. Students, faculty, and the public were bamboozled into the claim that LU Votes was a non-partisan effort to register all voters and encourage broad participation, yet not one Republican was ever notified or invited to any event while Democrat candidates ran rampant at multiple occasions, including during the election. Two racially-motivated not-for-profit organizations (one political and one religious) sent out thousands of pre-completed mail-in ballot applications to voters containing their private information with a message to "Vote Democrat." In addition to being an illegal activity for non-profits to participate in, these ballot applications had an "Or Current Resident" sticker on the envelope implicitly inviting fraud by individuals not named on the application to simply affix their signature and send in the application. These practices and others will be exposed to the public in their sheer, unvarnished ugliness should this case proceed.
Elections are imperfect but imperfection is not the equivalent of being flawed. The imperfections cut both ways and confer no benefit to one candidate or the other. This lawsuit represents the worst of our politics and can only be defined for what it actually is: a political hit job on a public servant who found a way to beat a machine by serving all of the people with humility and equity. The voters of Jefferson County resoundingly ratified that sentiment and their will should be respected.