The petition alleges the city clerk and county election office did not comply with the requirements of Texas election laws during the certification process of more than 20,000 registered voter signatures in the two jurisdictions.
The petition claims that because the local option petitions did not comply with the law, the results should be voided.
Four proposals, two to legalize the sale of beer and wine within the city limits and JP Precinct 2, which includes unincorporated areas surrounding southern Tyler, Flint, Noonday and Bullard, and two to expand mixed beverage sales in those jurisdictions, were approved Nov. 6.
Complete but unofficial results show Proposition 2 in Tyler, which would legalize beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption within city limits, passed 21,225 votes to 10,670 votes, or 66.55 percent to 33.45 percent. In JP Precinct 2, the legal sale passed 16,695 votes to 8,850 votes, or 65.36 percent to 34.64 percent.
Proposition 1 in Tyler, which expanded mixed beverage sales in areas recently annexed, passed 22,767 votes to 8,450 votes, or 72.93 percent to 27.07 percent. In JP Precinct 2 the same measure passed 17,138 votes to 6,772 votes, or 71.68 percent to 28.32 percent.
The petition in election contest comes before the Smith County Commissioners Court was set to canvass the vote for the Nov. 6 election on Thursday, making them official. The City Council is expected to canvass votes Monday.
A request for a temporary restraining order against the propositions going to Tyler and JP Precinct 2 voters on Election Day was thrown out by a visiting judge.
After the election, Pastor Mike Daniels, of Landmark Baptist Church and member of Stand Strong for Tyler, the group opposing the propositions, said the group was considering a lawsuit to contest the election results. Daniels said he has lost faith in the election process altogether.
“There's no credibility or integrity in what has been done,” he said.
Daniels said the city and county did not perform its duty, and that if both entities followed election law the propositions would have never made it to Tuesday ballots.
The City Council and county commissioners approved the respective petitions in August despite criticism from the opposition group. State law requires governing bodies to place propositions on ballots if enough signatures are verified.
To order an election in Tyler, 7,895 signatures were required. More than 9,000 petition signatures were received by the city and more than 8,300 were verified by the city clerk as registered voters within the city limits.
Buy Local First submitted 12,825 signatures to the county for verification in Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 for the sale of beer and wine. More than 6,700 signatures are required for the petition to make the ballot.
Smith County Election Administrator Karen Nelson told commissioners her department verified 1,000 more signatures than necessary.
Daniels said the petitions did not meet three criteria required by law - each must have an official seal, signatures by the registered voters in that jurisdiction and a page number.
Under those standards, Daniels said all 8,300 signatures verified by the city would be invalidated and all but 400 signatures verified by the county would be invalidated.
County Attorney Stan Springerley, the county commissioners' legal counsel, recommended the court approve the petition based on the number of signatures validated by the election department.
During the same public hearing, Norman Ladd, an attorney hired by Stand Strong for Tyler, addressed numerous “irregularities” regarding the petitions.
Springerley told the court “the process did reveal some issues about an unreadable seal or missing page numbers.” However, “both the Elections Code and the case law support for 'Substantial Compliance' Rule, which allows for defects and irregularities of a limited nature which may be waived.”
Daniels said the city and county interpretation of the law favored the legalization efforts.
“The whole thing is a farce,” he said. “How much fraud is acceptable?”
“Had they had any evidence supporting their claim it would have been presented at the temporary restraining order hearing (before the election),” he said. “As in the past, they will follow with allegations and accusations but I expect the same result.”
The 7th District Court is expected to hear the petition though nothing has been scheduled as of press time.