GALVESTON — It appears that even after two elections, the race for the La Marque’s District B council seat has not been decided.
According to complete but unofficial results, the runoff race between incumbent council member James Osteen and challenger Chris Lane ended in a rare tie Saturday.
Both men received 157 votes, after early votes and election day ballots were cast.
Both the candidates and election officials said Saturday evening that they were stunned by the close vote.
“That didn’t even cross my mind,” Lane said of the possibility of a tie. “But everything happened the way it was supposed to.”
Osteen was even more speechless.
“What are the chances of that?” Osteen said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Both candidates said they were willing to enter another runoff election.
Other factors could affect the results of this election before a runoff race is officially called.
There were 26 provisional ballots cast countywide for the runoff election. Galveston County Chief Deputy Clerk of Elections Bill Sargent said that three of them were cast in La Marque, meaning they likely involved the city’s council race.
Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names do not appear on the list of registered voters, or by those who do not show the proper photo identification at a polling location.
Provisional ballots are kept separate from regular ballots and are only counted if a board of officials deem the person who voted provisionally eligible to vote.
The provisional ballots will not be judged as valid until Saturday, Sargent said.
If there is still a tie after they are considered, it is possible there would have to be another election in La Marque to decide the race.
La Marque city clerk Robin Eldridge said the city’s charter calls for another runoff if a race ends in a tie. Eldridge said that holding another runoff could cost the city as much as $20,000.
If the candidates wanted to avoid another runoff vote they could choose to cast lots to determine the winner, or one of them could choose to drop out. Election officials will also conduct an automatic recount to confirm the results of the race.
Woods wins District 1 under controversy
Challenger Tarris Woods defeated incumbent District 1 Galveston City Council Cornelia Harris Banks, 262-205, seemingly deciding the final composition of the new look City Council.
However, even as votes were being tallied, election officials revealed that Woods had been reprimanded earlier in the week for apparent violations to the state election code.
Sargent said Wednesday evening that poll workers had seen Woods escort voters into the Galveston County Courthouse on Wednesday. State voting rules require a candidate stay 100 feet away from polling locations when an election is underway.
Sargent said that if Woods was not in the courthouse on official business with the county or using the bathroom facilities, he should not have been near the building at all.
“I received notification from the election judge at the county courthouse on Wednesday evening that Mr. Woods had been in the voting location bringing people in to vote,” Sargent said. “And that he was actually in the voting location.”
Sargent said that Woods was not telling people how to vote, but was inside the building.
After Woods’ presence was reported to him, Sargent said he called the candidate to inform him of the state rules. Sargent said that Woods did not deny being in the polling places.
Woods did not respond to multiple calls and messages seeking comment.
Sargent said he did not report the violation to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, which reviews election complaints. It was unclear on Saturday evening if anyone else had made a complaint to state officials.
“The only action I took was to tell him not to do it again,” Sargent said.
After the final votes came in on Saturday, Banks said she would concede the race to Woods but was concerned not only with Woods’ action during the election, but with ongoing questions regarding his residency.
“I’m not angry or sad or anything, I think I did my best,” Banks said “I played by the rules.”
On election documents filed with the city, Woods claimed his home address is on Winnie Street. But many of his opponents claim his actual home address is in the Colony Park neighborhood, outside of District 1. Woods’ residency has been a point of contention for years, but past complaints about his living situation were left largely unresolved.
Since Woods last served on the council in 2012, the city changed its charter rules regarding residency, but it is unclear if Woods is in violation of those rules.
Banks said she was unsure who should check into Woods’ living situation, but thought it would be proper for the city to confirm his residency.
“I don’t know whose job it is to find out if that person actually lives there,” Banks said. “I think that if you’re doing the right thing, you should prove that you live in District 1.”
In a third race decided Saturday, Michael Hughes defeated Sheryl Rozier 891-576 for a regents position at Galveston College.
Contact John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.