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In re Pikl

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

January 12, 2018

IN RE JAMES PIKL

          Submitted: January 11, 2018

         Original Mandamus Proceeding

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ralph K. Burgess Justice Date

         This is an original mandamus proceeding brought by relator, James Pikl, a Republican candidate for Court of Appeals Justice for the Fifth Appellate District of Texas, Place 12.[1] Pikl seeks a writ of mandamus from this Court ordering Organization Director of the Republican Party of Texas Brandon Moore to decertify real party in interest, William Randall Johnson, as a candidate for Court of Appeals Justice for the Fifth Appellate District of Texas, Place 12, for placement on the 2018 Republican primary election ballot. We deny Pikl's petition because the mandamus record provided (1) does not show that Moore has failed to comply with a duty imposed by the Texas Elections Code and (2) creates fact issues that cannot be resolved by mandamus.

         I. Standard of Review and Issue Presented

         This Court may issue a writ of mandamus to compel the performance of a ministerial act, including "any duty imposed by law in connection with the holding of an election or a political party convention, regardless of whether the person responsible for performing the duty is a public officer." Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 273.061 (West 2003). "An act is ministerial when the law clearly spells out the duty to be performed . . . with sufficient certainty that nothing is left to the exercise of discretion." In re Woodfill, 470 S.W.3d 473, 478 (Tex. 2015) (orig. proceeding). However, it is well established Texas law that an appellate court may not deal with disputed areas of fact in an original mandamus proceeding. Brady v. Fourteenth Court of Appeals, 795 S.W.2d 712, 714 (Tex. 1990) (orig. proceeding).

         Johnson's petition was required to contain 250 valid signatures. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 141.062, 172.021(e) (West Supp. 2017). The crux of Pikl's argument is premised on his belief that the petition submitted by Johnson did not contain the required number of valid signatures in support of his application for inclusion on the Republican Primary election ballot. Thus, Pikl contends that Moore failed to comply with a duty imposed by law by certifying Johnson's application.

         Specifically, Pikl argues that a vast majority of signatures on the petition were invalid because circulators failed to include voter registration numbers for each signatory. According to Pikl, the circulators would be unable to confirm that the petition was signed by a registered voter without voter registration numbers. Thus, he argues, Moore should have rejected Johnson's application. Pikl further asserts that his review of Johnson's ballot petitions, when compared with the GOP Data Center database of voter registration records (not county registration records), led him to conclude that only 237 signatories were properly registered voters. In order to examine Pikl's claims, we review the requirements of the Texas Election Code.

         II. Requirements of the Texas Election Code

         In relevant part, Section 141.063 of the Texas Election Code provides that a signature on a ballot petition is valid if:

(1) . . . the signer, at the time of signing, is a registered voter of the territory from which the office sought is elected or has been issued a registration certificate for a registration that will become effective in that territory on or before the date of the applicable election;
(2) the petition includes the following information with respect ...

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