By Anton Riecher
Charges that voting machines used in Medina County are not properly certified under state regulations is the latest in a series of allegations alleging election irregularities made to county commissioners.
Jarrett Woodward, plaintiff in several lawsuits charging voter irregularities in Bexar County, addressed the commissioners March 9 during the public comment portion of the regular session agenda.
“The (Texas) secretary of state, in my opinion, has committed fraud upon the county by presenting uncertified voting systems as certified and trying to allow you to use them,” Woodward said.
Those speaking during the public comment period are limited to three minutes under the rules. However, Woodward’s time at the podium was extended when others scheduled to speak ceded their time to him.
For complete video coverage of the commissioners court session visit the Devine News YouTube channel at youtu.be/i7lxdZE-5ug.
Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch, presiding over the meeting in the absence of County Judge Keith Lutz, later told the audience that he had been informed that speakers were not allowed to surrender their time to others.
“Consider this a freebie,” Lynch said. “It will not happen again.”
Woodward said that in Texas voting machines must be certified for use by a “nationally recognized test laboratory” chosen from a list provided by the state. However, he found at least two important items on the certificate for the voting system used in Medina County to be missing or incorrect.
The certificate of accreditation is not signed by the chair of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as required, Woodward said. Also, the administrative code requires that it must have an expiration date that cannot exceed more than two years, he said.
Medina County uses the Hart InterCivic Verity 2.5 voting system. The certificate for that system carries an expiration date of three years, not two.
“I’m not up here accusing anyone of any intentional wrong doing,” Woodward said. “I think that the secretary of state is kind of where your focus needs to be going to rectify this.”
Woodward said that the courts had found he lacked legal standing to file action in Bexar County regarding these issues.
“Because I’m a normal citizen the courts find that I don’t have standing – as a voter – so the whole concept of one person, one vote is great outside of court but it doesn’t work in the courtroom,” Woodward said.
Medina County commissioners should be concerned that if the certification question becomes a legal issue in the future ultimate responsibility for whether the system was properly accredited could fall on them, Woodward said.
“I think that you guys have a good opportunity in front of you to show the rest of Texas that voter integrity is a top priority in Medina County,” he said.
Whitney Riley and Mona Wolters, two of the scheduled speakers who ceded their time to Woodward have made allegations of voting irregularities during previous commissioners court sessions. Riley served as the Republican county election judge and Wolters served as a Republican precinct election judge during the November 2022 general election.
Like Riley and Wolters, Woodward urged the commissioners to consider a return to hand-marked, hand counted paper ballots.
In response the concerns brought up in recent meetings, the Medina Democratic Chair Sandy Young, wrote to the News: “Just want to make a slight correction to the article on the Commissioners Court meeting about the LATs. It was not only Lupe Torres, the Election Administrator and I, as stated in the article, who worked on finding the errors they made intentionally or otherwise. The Republican Chair, Julie Clark also worked on it with us and it took the 3 of us 14 hours working closely together to identify the errors and make the corrections. Contrary to their assertion that their sabotage proves that the Hart Machines are faulty, because of the cross checking ability we had with the Hart machines newly added paper backup, the LATs actually proved how well they work. Thank you for reporting these things. Hope that it’s helpful.”
The following three items were approved by the commissioners on motions by Precinct 1 Commissioner Timothy Neuman, seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre:
Preliminary approval to vacate and replat a tract of the Mi Terra subdivision, unit one, into two tracts each slightly more than five acres. The tracts provide 16.36 feet of frontage on County Road 340 in Precinct 1.
Final approval of El Tejano Ranch subdivision consisting of four lots with approval for water and electric service. The subdivision is located in Precinct 1 at the intersection of CR4401 and CR442.
Preliminary approval of Freundlicher Bauernhof (Friendly Farm) subdivision in Precinct 1 off FM 2676. The subdivision consists of five lots with the Texas Department of Transportation scheduled of start on entrances soon.
On a motion by Precinct 4 Commissioner Daniel Lawler, seconded by Sittre, the commissioners approved action on approval of an exemption to subdivision rules regarding the division of a tract of Nockenut Woods subdivision into two 6.5 acre tracts without street entrances.
Lawler explained that the owner wish to use the tracts as a “cushion” between their property and the new subdivision.
On a motion by Lynch, seconded by Lawler, the commissioners gave preliminary approval for Canal Verde subdivision, a 32-acre property in Precinct 3 at the intersection of CR672 and CR6712. The proposal involved dividing the property into 11 lots, the smallest of which would be 1.74 acres.
On a motion by Lynch, also seconded by Lawler, the commissioners gave preliminary approval for Medina Meadows West subdivision in Precinct 3 at the intersection of CR512 and CR515. The subdivision consists of 13 lots.
In a report from County Auditor Eduardo Lopez, Medina County showed a beginning balance of $34.3 million in March with $21.4 million in the general fund. Lopez said the amount was high due to a large amount of tax revenue received in February.
By comparison, the February beginning balance was $21.3 million with $13.4 million in the general fund.
A report by County Treasurer Debbie Southwell showed the county with $22.7 million in January against $25 million in debt owed. Accounts payable totaled $687,170 and was approved by the commissioners. Also approved was a line-item transfer of $5,400 to purchase uniforms and cover other juvenile youth services expenses.
On a recommendation by county officials business management consultant Grantworks was awarded the contract as services provider for the 2023-2024 Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant application.
To serve as engineering firm for the application, the commissioners chose RESPEC Engineering which scored a 98 in an assessment by a technical committee established by the county. The competing firm scored 89 in the assessment.
On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Sittre, the commissioners approved a resolution to submit an application for a 2023-2024 Texas Community Development Block Grant in support of an East Medina County Special Utility District project in the CR5710 area.
EMCSUD Superintendent Bruce Alexander said the project was repeat of an application that was previously turned down.
“The grant was originally $350,000 but I’ve been told it might go as high as $500,000 to help cover some of the increased cost,” Alexander said.
The annual grant application is generally rotated among the various county water systems, he said.
Commissioners approved an equipment and training purchase totaling $51,834 for a miniature X-ray machine to be used by the sheriff’s office for traffic stops. Deputy Chief Gilbert Ramirez said the machine would be used to check for narcotics concealed inside tires or hidden compartments.
“It can be done on the roadway instead of taking it to a shop to be disassembled,” Ramirez said.
First Assistant County Auditor Rubi Cline said the purchase would be cover from grant funds.
On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Lynch, a leasing agreement for more than 40 copiers was approved with Toshiba at a monthly cost of $7,319, more than $2,500 less than the nearest bid out of four submitted. Some overlap is expected as the current lease with Xerox is phased out, Cline said.
Issues had developed with the Xerox contract, she said, particularly with regard to the sheriff’s office.
“They are the office that has to be running 24/4,” she said. “We have to keep them going.”