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Midland’s ballot box “mystery” is about to be solved.

Attorneys representing members of both political action committees involved in the controversial Midland school bond election appeared before a visiting state district judge this morning, for a hearing on petitions both groups filed challenging the election results.

Both parties in court agreed the election was mishandled; however, the relief they seek differs.

The petition filed by representatives of the pro-bond PAC sought to ascertain the true results of the election by conducting a manual recount of the ballots, while the petition for the opposition PAC (Better Bond for Midland) argued a new election should be ordered.

Better Bond for Midland cited multiple violations of Texas Election Code, noting the chain of custody of certain paper ballot backups are in question.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the court ordered the 836 paper ballot backups discovered in an extra ballot box, dubbed the “Midland Mystery Box,” be tabulated for the first time.

When election officials obtained the first court order to open the mystery box last month, the order did not allow officials to look at how the ballots were cast. This order will allow those paper backups to be tallied and compared against the electronic ballot counts, which have always shown the bond failing by a narrow margin.

Yet when the mystery box ballots are finally tabulated, the results of the election won’t change.

Midland’s school board rushed to certify the bond election results after a recount (which revealed the missing paper records) showed the bond passing by 12 votes. The election results can only be voided if the parties seek and receive a subsequent court order invalidating the election.

The recount will be held on January 17 at the Midland County Courthouse Annex Building.