In 2019, Fredericksburg voters cast ballots on a proposition that would have prohibited the use of fluoride from being used to treat the city’s municipal water supply.
Set as a potential charter amendment, the proposition read, “The City of Fredericksburg, including its departments, agents, and contractors, SHALL NOT FLUORIDATE THE PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY or accept any fluoridated water for use in the City of Fredericksburg public water system.”
“The City of Fredericksburg shall not purchase, install, or allow the installation of fluoridation equipment to be used in relation to the City of Fredericksburg municipal water supply or its distribution system.”
That proposition failed in the November 5, 2019 vote 742 for to 1,258 against.
After a recount yielded roughly the same result, the final canvassing was concluded on December 2, 2019.
Proponents of the proposition say that fluoride in the water system causes defects such as faster-decaying teeth among other health issues.
Right after New Year’s in 2020, founder Jeannette Hormuth of Clean Water Fred — the activist group behind the anti-fluoride petition — and Jerry Farley, an election judge in the city’s Precinct 2, sued Fredericksburg Mayor Linda Langerhans, alleging that the tabulated result does “not [reflect] the true outcome.”
They contend that elections officials “counted illegal votes,” “failed to count legal votes,” and “made mistakes and/or engaged in illegal conduct.”
Specifically, it points to 406 ballots unsigned by an election judge, contends that about 130 absentee ballots were missing at the time of the recount, and asserts that poll watchers were obstructed from viewing vote counting both during the absentee tally and the recount.
Another minor contention is that a city ordinance that prohibited electioneering material from being displayed on public land violates the First Amendment.
“This Court may find that so many mistakes and illegalities occurred in the administration and tabulation of the Fredericksburg Charter Amendment election ballots that the true outcome of the election cannot be determined, and thus this Court may declare the Fredericksburg Charter Amendment election void,” the filing concluded.
Hormuth and Farley state that between 542 and 621 votes are in question due to the variety of irregularities they allege, and that after removal of the unsigned ballots, the margin shrinks to 444. They ask the court to void the 2019 result and order a new election.
In her brief response, Langerhans “denie[d] each and every, all and singular, the material allegations.”
The dispute snowballed into more than just the 2019 proposition over the last two years until the county’s whole elections administration staff — all of three individuals — resigned abruptly in August.
A trial in front of the 216th District Court of Gillespie County will occur on October 10.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.