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Appeals court dismisses voting machine suit against Burnet County

A lawsuit seeking the return to paper ballots in Burnet County was dismissed by the Texas First District Court of Appeals on May 11 when the appellant, Patricia Cope of Marble Falls, did not respond to a brief.

A civil lawsuit against Burnet County that sought to do away with electronic voting machines was dismissed by the Texas First District Court of Appeals on Thursday, May 11. 

In the case of Patricia Cope v. Doug Ferguson et al., the nine-member panel of judges dismissed the case because Cope, a Marble Falls resident, did not respond to the last brief filed. The deadline for response was Feb. 24, 2023.

“After being notified that this appeal was subject to dismissal, appellant did not respond,” reads the memorandum opinion from Chief Justice Terry Adams and justices Peter Kelly and Gordon Goodman. “Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal for want of prosecution for failure to timely file a brief. We dismiss any pending motions as moot.” 

Cope, who has been unavailable for comment on the issue, filed the lawsuit in August 2022. It was appealed from the 424th District Court in Burnet County and named as defendants Election Administrator Doug Ferguson, county commissioners Jim Luther, Damon Beierle, Billy Wall, and Joe Don Dockery, and County Judge James Oakley. 

“This indicates that the suit is officially closed,” Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo told “If Ms. Cope decides to pursue anything further, it’s my hope that she considers taking it to the state Legislature and the Secretary of State’s office, where the laws and regulations are being set for how elections get done. That’s the proper forum. Burnet County is following all regulations and laws.” 

The case resulted in a high-profile recusal by Arredondo in an animal cruelty case involving Commissioner Wall last fall. The law prohibits an attorney from defending and prosecuting the same person. As county attorney, Arredondo defends county commissioners in all lawsuits. Attorneys from Williamson County handled that case instead and will continue to do so, Arredondo said, even now that he is no longer involved in defending Wall in the election lawsuit.

The animal cruelty case is being investigated by District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee, who recently told he is still collecting evidence.

The voting machine suit mirrors similar lawsuits filed in other Texas counties and states in August 2022 ahead of a Sept. 3 deadline for destroying election materials from the November 2020 presidential election. 

Burnet County preserved the 2020 election results and will keep them on file a while longer, Ferguson told 

“The rest of the lawsuit was about things we are legally doing anyway because the machines are certified by the state of Texas,” Ferguson said. “This has had no effect on Burnet County voting.”