City Council Election '17: Confusion Surrounds All Sides Over Impounded Ballots

Eric Johnson (left) and Mike Rawlings at Dallas City Hall decrying potential voter fraud in April.
Eric Johnson (left) and Mike Rawlings at Dallas City Hall decrying potential voter fraud in April. Stephen Young
Heading into Wednesday morning, the fourth after Dallas' Saturday city council election, there are a couple of sure things about the incomplete District 6 council race. There is going to be a runoff election on June 10 to decide the West Dallas seat at the horseshoe and Monica Alonzo, the incumbent in the race and first round leader currently sitting at about 39 percent of the vote, is going to be in it.

What isn't clear is who her opponent will be. Omar Narvaez,currently leads Alex Dickey by 47 votes for second place, but more than 450 mail-in ballots in District 6 have not been tabulated.

According to paperwork filed by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office about 700 mailed in ballots total in Council Districts 2 and 6 can be traced back to "an individual that signs his name Jose Rodriguez." Rodriguez, who the district attorney's office believes does not exist, at least under that name, signed his name to hundreds of applications for mail-in ballots, attesting that he helped the person requesting the ballot apply for it. Those are the ballots that have yet to be included in District 6's totals.

Over the past two days, the actions of both Alonzo and Narvaez' supporters make it clear that neither side really knows what's going on with impounded ballots. Texas state Representative Eric Johnson, who came out strong against potential vote fraud in West Dallas in April, tells the Observer that he has no idea which campaign might be behind the ballot chicanery.

"There's a very good chance that this is being done to help a candidate that I would like to see win in one of these elections," Johnson says. "I have no clue if it's being done to help or hurt anybody I may or may not be supporting in any of these races. I just don't care, I could be hurting a friend, I have no idea."

"There's a very good chance that this is being done to help and candidate that I would like to see win in one of these elections." - Rep. Eric Johnson

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During a press conference last month, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings joined Johnson in calling attention to potential fraud in West Dallas. The gesture was intended to present a united front, since Johnson is a political ally of council members Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston, who backs Narvaez. Rawlings supports Alonzo.  

"I think it would be ironic if the mayor is so strongly supporting Monica and yet he's so outspoken on this fraud issue. That would be very odd to me," Johnson says, pointing to Alonzo's huge lead in mail-in ballots that have already been counted. "I think the mayor and I are both being very principled about this."

In a joint press release late Monday night, Rawlings called vote harvesting in West Dallas "elder abuse" and said he supported the ongoing investigation. “We are pleased with the actions taken thus far by both the Dallas County Elections Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to investigate suspected voter fraud in West Dallas and elsewhere in the count," Johnson and Rawlings wrote. "We believe one disenfranchised voter is one too many, and we have been assured that county officials agree with us and are pursuing this matter aggressively."

Kingston, who bucked council tradition when he endorsed Narvaez over Alonzo, declined to point the finger at her campaign Tuesday. "The ballots were probably harvested by a mercenary who was trying to sell them, and probably trying to sell them to more than one campaign," Kingston told the Observer, "but I don't think that's any evidence that that person was actually involved with a campaign."

A count of the disputed ballots that are accepted as valid is expected as early as today.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young