Fugate v. Johnston

Decision Date26 September 1952
Docket NumberNo. 12498,12498
Citation251 S.W.2d 792
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Potter & Cooper, Walter Groce, George W. Shaffer, Corpus Christi, for appellant.

Charles G. Lyman, Corpus Christi, Gus L. Kowalski, Kingsville, Lee Mahoney, Corpus Christi, for appellee.


This is a primary election contest that concerns the validity of certain absentee votes and certain other votes by persons whose poll taxes were allegedly purchased by a person other than the voters. The trial court sustained exceptions to the contest and, upon contestant's failure to amend, the contest was dismissed, from which this appeal was perfected.

By a margin of seventy votes, Royce C. Johnston was declared the nominee to the office of County Attorney of Kleberg County over the contestant, J. H. Fugate, Jr. Contestant's pleadings named fifty-eight persons whose absentee votes he claimed were void. Contestant attacked another group of voters in a single box, because allegedly their poll taxes were purchased by one other than the voters themselves. Forty other votes were challenged for various reasons, such as nonresidence of the voter, the fact that a voter was below age, an alien, or was refused the right to vote. For contestant to overcome the declared lead of 70 votes held by Johnston, it was necessary for him to allege facts that brought in question enough votes to overcome that lead. The effect of the trial court's ruling on the special exceptions is to hold that the contestant failed to allege facts that would void and invalidate the necessary number of votes to change the result of the election. Contestant amended two times, and when he refused to amend further the cause was dismissed.

The decision in the case requires an interpretation of the Election Code, the aim of which is to 'safeguard the purity of the ballot box' and at the same time to see 'that the will of the people shall prevail'. Art. 1.01, Vernon's Ann.Civ.Stats. Election Code.

Article 5.05, Vernon's Ann.Civ.Stats., Election Code, relates to absentee voting and reflects that it is largely unchanged from the exact wording of the absentee voting law before January 1, 1952, the effective date of the new Code. We presume that the Legislature in choosing to carry forward those portions of the law meant that those provisions were deemed satisfactory under existing understanding and interpretation.

A purpose of the Code is to prohibit error, fraud, mistake, and corporation, and yet it may not be used as an instrument of disfranchisement for irregularities of procedure. Stratton v. Hall, Tex.Civ.App., 90 S.W.2d 865. Since 'The will of the legal voters as expressed at the polls is the matter of paramount concern, and, in the absence of any showing of fraud, or reasonable indication that such will has not been fairly expressed and the evidence thereof properly preserved, the courts have been liberal in construing and enforcing as directory only the provisions of the election laws which are not upon their face clearly mandatory.' Ramsay v. Wilhelm, Tex.Civ.App., 52 S.W.2d 757, 759; Davis v. State, 75 Tex. 420, 432, 12 S.W. 957, 962; Morris v. Dunn, Tex.Civ.App., 164 S.W.2d 562; McBride v. Cantu, Tex.Civ.App., 143 S.W.2d 126; Stratton v. Hall, supra; Clark v. Hardison, 40 Tex.Civ.App. 611, 90 S.W. 342.

Contestant, in his brief, has grouped his complaints about the method of absentee voting. They are that each of the named fifty-eight persons, (1) though voting absentee, were in Kleberg County on election day and had no intention of being absent when they voted; (2) that those persons were unable to read and write the English language and votes so they could be aided in the Spanish language in marking their ballots, or have some one else mark their ballots; and (3) that those persons did not sign their names to the stubs attached to the official ballot but that their names were written by some one other than the voters on their stubs. It was alleged in contestant's last amendment to his pleadings that an illegal plan was entered upon for the purpose of circumventing the Code and that two persons induced those named voters to vote absentee to accomplish that plan.

The burden on contestant is more than that of alleging irregularities. The allegations must be such as, if proved, and, we shall consider the allegations as proved, would void the votes favorable to the contestee. Departure from directory provisions of the absentee voting law does not result in the nullification of the votes so long as the qualified voter's will is expressed. The provisions of Article 5.05, Vernon's Ann.Civ.Stats., Election Code, as frequently construed under its predecessor, Article 2956, which has now been repealed and largely re-enacted, have frequently been declared directory rather than mandatory. Before the enactment of the recent code the only portions of what is now Article 5.05 that were declared mandatory were what is now Section 5 of Article 5.05 that relates to the legal time during which absentee voting is permitted at all, and Section 10 of the same article that provides that an elector who dies after voting absentee shall not have his vote counted. Those portions of the article are mandatory as is apparent from reading the article, but, as has frequently been decided, other portions of the article are directory only. Bray v. Peden, Tex.Civ.App., 213 S.W.2d 469; State ex rel. Sharp v. Martin, Tex.Civ.App., 186 S.W.2d 111; Lee v. Whitehead, Tex.Civ.App., 182 S.W.2d 744; Murchison v. Darden, Tex.Civ.App., 171 S.W.2d 220; Morris v. Dunn, Tex.Civ.App., 164...

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18 cases
  • Roe v. Mobile County Appointment Bd.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 14 March 1995
    ...87.041 (1986 & Supp.1995) (no notarization or attestation is required, but there is a one-tier signature comparison); Fugate v. Johnston, 251 S.W.2d 792 (Tex.Ct.App.1952) (An election contestant challenged 58 absentee votes for reasons such as nonresidence, below voting age, alienage, etc.,......
  • United States v. State of Texas
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 9 February 1966
    ...S.W. 490; Beach v. State, 1914, 75 Tex.Cr.R. 434, 171 S.W. 715; Solon v. State, 1908, 54 Tex.Cr.R. 261, 114 S.W. 349; Fugate v. Johnston, Tex.Civ. App.1952, 251 S.W.2d 792. 73 The proposition suggests the period in history when only the landed gentry were considered fit to participate in th......
  • Duncan v. Willis, A-6104
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • 15 May 1957
    ...the voter shall pay his poll tax. * * *.' Reference was made to this distinction in the comparatively recent case of Fugate v. Johnston, Tex.Civ.App., 251 S.W.2d 792, 794, in which it was pointed out that the election code (specifically Article 5.11, Vernon's Tex. Election Code, V.A.T.S.) d......
  • Vicars v. Stokely, 13126
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • 24 October 1956
    ...upheld. The pertinent provisions of the Election Code are directory. Lightner v. McCord, Tex.Civ.App., 151 S.W.2d 362; Fugate v. Johnston, Tex.Civ.App., 251 S.W.2d 792. Two other findings were that the boxes had been exposed to interference by interested persons. Taking the findings togethe......
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