The City Secretary of Irving has come under fire from a state lawmaker for allegedly violating the election code in an attempt to keep a mayoral candidate off the May ballot. A formal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office has been requested.
Irving’s City Secretary Shanae Jennings has refused to accept certain signatures submitted by Kristi Pena, a candidate who’s filed to run for the Mayor’s seat vacated by conservative incumbent Beth Van Duyne. State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) says the city is violating the plain language of the Texas Election Code by rejecting the signatures.
Rinaldi submitted the following statement:
“I’ve expressed serious concern regarding the actions of the City Secretary. It is grossly inappropriate for government officials to disregard their duty to uphold the law, especially where, as in this instance, it has the effect of disrupting a free and fair election. The requirements of the Election Code appear to be in direct conflict with actions taken by Irving officials.”
The signature “discrepancies” flagged by the City Secretary pertain to registered voters who used printed names that do not exactly match the signer’s voter registration, such as the use of maiden names or initials. Jennings challenged their validity and rejected Pena’s candidacy.
Pena responded by submitting signed affidavits from the voters in question to verify their identify, but sources told the Texas Scorecard the city attorney has backed up the secretary’s refusal to accept additional documentation.
Signatures submitted by Pena appear to satisfy the legal requirements. Section 141.063 of the Election Code requires that the signer be a registered voter in the relevant district of the office for which the candidate seeks to run. Validity of the signature must include the signer’s residence address and their date of birth or voter registration number, the date of signing, and the signer’s printed name.
The Texas House Elections Committee, chaired by State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R- Murphy), has requested a formal opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s Office on the matter.
This is not the first time local government officials have been caught skirting the law in an attempt to undermine the elections process.
In Houston, under former Mayor Annise Parker’s tyrannical bidding, the City Secretary and Attorney violated Houston’s charter in an attempt to squelch a citizen petition drive. Residents sued the city multiple times, and ultimately won, after appealing their case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
Citizens in Plano are still involved in a suit with the city over a petition drive the city rejected. It related to a high-density plan that sparked widespread outrage among Plano residents.