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State Rep. Lon Burnam sues to reverse election loss

Dave Montgomery
Austin Correspondent

State Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth filed suit on Monday seeking to overturn his election defeat in the March 4 Democratic primary.

Burnam, who lost to Fort Worth businessman Ramon Romero Jr. by 111 votes, challenged what he said was an effort to benefit his opponent through the illegal use of electronic devices to collect signatures for mail-in ballots.

The lawsuit, filed in state district court in Tarrant County, seeks “all relevant facts” in connection with the operation, Burnam said. “I believe that these documents and other testimony will establish beyond question that the computerized-signature operation was illegal and that I won the election,” he said.

Romero dismissed Burnam’s assertions. “It sounds to me like he’s desperate and he can’t accept that he lost,” Romero said by cellphone while on a trip to Austin.

The election outcome appeared to end Burnam’s 17-year political career as the representative of House District 90 in inner-city Fort Worth. He is currently the dean of Tarrant County’s 11-member delegation in the State House of Representatives.

Romero, who grew up in the Polytechnic neighborhood, would be the first Hispanic state House member from Tarrant County if the election results remain in force. Hispanics comprise nearly 76 percent of the district’s population.

In a statement released to the press late Monday afternoon, Burnam said he received reports from voters in the district who said they were approached by campaign workers “of unclear affiliation” who asked them to fill out a vote-by-mail application on an electronic tablet device such as an iPad.

Texas law does not permit the filling out of vote-by-mail applications electronically, Burnam said. “Other questionable practices about this operation aside, this renders the entire operation illegal,” he said.

Romero said that in February he had been told of an effort to sign up senior citizens for mail-in ballots in an arrangement that he said had been approved by Tarrant County election officials. He said he understood Tarrant County officials “did authorize the collection of signatures by way of a tablet” but that the actual document had to be printed out and delivered to election officials in compliance with the law, he said.

He said his campaign was not involved in the effort, adding that he did not know the number of applications and signatures that were collected.

Burnam said that of the 5,078 total votes cast in the election, 951 were absentee mail-in-ballots, “which is more than enough to have been a deciding factor” in the close election, he said.

The incumbent lawmaker said his suit seeks to determine “if there were hundreds of illegally cast ballots.”

Romero had 2,594 votes, or 51.09 percent of the total vote, compared to Burnam’s 2,483 votes, or 48.90 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees Texas elections.
 

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