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Fight Over Vote Already Under Way in Texas

HOUSTON (CN) - In an 11th-hour move, Harris County's Republican Party claimed in court that Democratic precinct judges are illegally refusing to appoint "election clerks" from a GOP list of candidates.

The Harris County Republican Party, through its chairman lawyer Jared Woodfill, sued the Harris County Democratic Party on Monday in Harris County Court.

The dispute turns on Harris County precinct judges' appointment of election clerks, whose duties include organizing polling places before polls open, checking in voters and ensuring they are eligible to vote, answering voters' questions and maintaining order in the polling place on Election Day, according to Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade's website.

Election clerks are paid hourly. In Harris County, any registered voter in the county qualifies.

In his lawsuit, Woodfill claims Democratic precinct judges are refusing to appoint Republican election clerks based on an email they got from the Democratic Party's chairman Lane Lewis.

Lane's email is included as an exhibit in the Republican Party's lawsuit.

The email is addressed to [email protected]; Woodfill does not mention how he got a copy for his lawsuit.

The email, dated Oct. 9 states: "Subject: Attention Presiding Election Judges Thank you for serving as an election judge for the Tuesday, November 6, 2012 General & Special Election administered by the Harris County Clerk's Office.

"You may have received a confusing letter from [Harris County Clerk] Stan Stanart informing you that you are required to hire an equal number of party representatives for your poll worker staff. This is not true.

"He was asked to send out a correction letter. In that letter he wrote that you should appoint clerks from different political parties 'if possible.' This is closer to the truth.

"To be clear, you, as the Election Judge, can hire whomever you choose. The alternate judge will most likely be a Republican and will be appointed by the Republican Party.

"You are not required to hire any clerks from any party other than the Democratic Party.

"If you so choose to hire someone from the Green Party or Libertarian Party that would be a good gesture if possible.

"If you have already turned in your clerk's names based on the incorrect instruction given by Mr. Stanart, then simply submit your new names and those will override your new submissions.

"Regardless, on Election Day you are the boss. You are the Presiding Judge. You say who works and who does not.

"If the Republican Alternate Judge shows up with their own staff, then thank them, but inform them that their clerks are not needed and that you have hired the clerks for the day."

Woodfill says Texas Elections Code 32.034 mandates that Democratic precinct judges appoint a list of election clerks from a list given to each precinct's presiding judge.

The law states: "(c) If only one additional clerk is to be appointed for an election in which the alternate presiding judge will serve as a clerk, the clerk shall be appointed from the list of a political party with which neither the presiding judge nor the alternate judge is affiliated or aligned, if such a list is submitted. If two such lists are submitted, the presiding judge shall decide from which list the appointment will be made. If such a list is not submitted, the presiding judge is not required to make an appointment from any list.

"(d) The presiding judge shall make an appointment under this section not later than the fifth day after the date the judge receives the list and shall deliver written notification of the appointment to the appropriate county chair."

Woodfill claims the Republican Party will be "deprived of their proportionate share of election clerks" if the Democratic precinct judges do not have to appoint clerks from its list.

The Republicans want an order to stop Democratic judges from excluding Republicans as election clerks, and "that this be done before the general election on November 6, 2012."

As of Monday night, it was not clear from court records if an order had been granted.

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