Beaumont mayoral candidate disqualified

Beaumont mayoral candidate disqualified

Beaumont election deadline arrives

Beaumont City Clerk Tina Broussard has rejected the application of would-be mayoral candidate Hani Tohme on the basis that Tohme is not a registered voter of Beaumont, according to state law that stipulates a 30-day period from the time a voter registration application is produced to when registration is effective.

Broussard was tasked with reviewing the law after Mayor Becky Ames, “as a resident of Beaumont, Texas, and candidate for the May 6, 2017, General Election for mayor,” notified the city clerk in writing of suspected disqualifying elements in Tohme’s application for mayoral candidacy.

Ames’ letter to Broussard was presented, it said, “with public records that conclusively establish the ineligibility of mayoral candidate Hani Tohme.

“Under Texas Election Code §141.001(a)(5) and (a)(6), to be eligible to be a candidate for a public elective office, a person must both (1) reside within and (2) be a registered voter in the territory from which the office is elected by the date of the regular filing deadline. The attached public records demonstrate that Hani Tohme is neither a registered voter in Beaumont nor will be by the filing deadline of Feb. 17, 2017.”

The letter outlines the definition of “registered voter” as meaning “a person registered to vote in this state whose registration is effective.” A voter’s registration becomes effective on the 30th day after the date the application is submitted to the registrar.

“The public records conclusively demonstrate that Hani Tohme filed a change of address from Port Arthur, Texas, to Beaumont, Texas, on Jan. 23, 2017,” Ames’ letter contends. “Thus, his voter registration is not effective until Feb. 22, 2017. Consequently, Hani Tohme is ineligible to be a candidate for mayor because the public records conclusively show that he neither is nor will be a registered voter of Beaumont, Texas, on the filing deadline.”

Ames then requested that Broussard declare Tohme ineligible and remove his name from the May 6 ballot.

Precedent has been set and upheld in Texas’ appeal courts under the same challenge. Vincent M. Perez, candidate for the El Paso County Commissioners Court, questioned the validity of the residency and voter registration of prospective opponent Antonio Quintanilla. Perez argued successfully that, although Quintanilla moved to register as a voter in a certain precinct prior to election deadline, he did not do so 30 days before the election deadline and therefore his registration was not effective.

“Quintanilla’s voter registration was not effective until the 30th day after he submitted his address change,” the Texas Appeals Court determined. “Consequently, he is ineligible to be a candidate because he was not a registered voter … on the filing date.”

The courts were brought in to enforce the “appropriate authority’s” duty to rule Quintanilla ineligible based on the facts given to the pertinent election administration. Before seeking judicial intervention, the procedure for obtaining an administrative declaration of candidate ineligibility is set forth in Section 145.003 of the Election Code, which provides that a candidate in an election other than the general election for state and county officers may be declared ineligible before the beginning of early voting by the authority with whom an application for a place on the ballot for the office sought by the candidate is required to be filed (i.e., city clerk, voting administrator).

The code also places a duty on the “appropriate authority” – a “duty imposed by law” – to promptly review the application when presented for a place on the ballot or another public record containing information pertinent to a candidate’s eligibility and, if the authority determines that the record establishes ineligibility, “the authority shall declare the candidate ineligible.”

Broussard, the city’s “appropriate authority” as Beaumont city clerk, did take the duty to determine eligibility under advisement, and issued a letter of determination the same day she received the request to review.

In a letter from Broussard to Tohme penned and sent Wednesday, Feb. 15, she wrote: “I have been presented with documents containing information pertinent to your eligibility for candidacy for the office of mayor of the City of Beaumont.”

Broussard references the Texas Election Code, specifically noting that the “requirement is that you must be registered to vote in the territory from which the office is elected on or before the regular filing deadline for a place on the ballot. The regular filing deadline for the May election is Feb. 17, 2017.

“Upon prompt review of the records presented, it has been determined that because your voter registration is not effective until 30 days after the date your application was submitted to the voter registrar, you would not be a registered voter in Beaumont until Feb. 22, 2017.

“As a result, you are hereby declared to be ineligible for candidacy for the office of mayor, and your application for a place on the ballot must be rejected.”

Mayor Ames said, “What it is and what it isn’t, from my standpoint: It’s not a complaint, it’s not a grievance – it’s an objective, mandatory requirement of the election code, the same requirement that applies to me and every candidate running for any elected position in the state of Texas.

“It’s not a partisan issue. It’s not a personal issue. It’s an equal application of Texas law to every candidate in our state.”