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Vince Perez Lawsuit Makes Claudia Ordaz Perez Ineligible To Run Against Art Fierro

As previously reported as breaking news by us, Claudia Ordaz Perez filed a change of address with the County Elections Department on October 12, 2021. She changed her address away from her marital home on Londonderry to her home on David Carrasco. [1] Shortly after making the change of address, Claudia Ordaz Perez announced that she was going to challenge Art Fierro in the 79th district. Ordaz Perez’ district was merged into Lina Ortega’s district pitting the two women against each other in 2022. According to the Texas Tribune, Ordaz Perez said that redistricting “paired” two women “against each other,” and criticized Art Fierro for returning early from Washington to help the Republicans “make the quorum necessary to pass their harmful agenda” – the redistricting maps. [2] Her comments suggest this is the reason why she moved into Fierro’s district instead of defending her seat against Lina Ortega.

However, her change of address has resulted in controversy, including arguments of “carpetbagging” and questions about her home on David Carrasco. It has also made her ineligible to run against Art Fierro, according to a lawsuit filed by her husband, Vince Perez.

As readers may remember, there are questions about the tax exemptions Claudia Ordaz has taken for her home on David Carrasco for several years. Two declarations, filed under oath, contradict each other in regards to the David Carrasco home. An affidavit filed with the El Paso Central Appraisal District (CAD) states that Claudia Ordaz Perez owns 60% of the house on David Carrasco. While two Personal Financial Statements filed with the State of Texas state that she owns 100% of the house.

The ownership of the house is important because Claudia Ordaz Perez has taken a 65 year and older and homestead exemption on her property taxes on David Carrasco based on an affidavit filed with the CAD. If the affidavit is invalid, she is not entitled to the tax discount. If the two financial declarations she filed with the State of Texas are incorrect, then she is subject to criminal penalties for perjury (lying) on the declarations. The documents filed under oath contradict each other.

However, that is not the only problem faced by Claudia Ordaz Perez.

Ordaz Perez Invalidated Her Candidacy When She Filed The Change Of Address

Our open records request to the elections department asked for voter information on Ordaz Perez to include the effective date of her voter registration. The effective date is important because Texas law has specific residency requirements for office holders.

The open record request we received on November 8, 2021, said that the effective date for Claudia Ordaz Perez was January 13, 2004, on her voter file that was last updated on October 12. [1]

El Paso Politics asked for clarification on the “effective date” that was sent to us. We specifically asked, “on what date does the new address become effective?” The response we received directed us to “reference Section 13.143 of the Texas Election Code”. [1]

The response included a copy-and-paste copy of the Texas Election Code. Chapter 13 of the Code addresses the requirements for voter registration. Subsection 143 discusses the “Effective Date” for the voter. A new voter registration become effective “on the 30th day after the application is submitted.” However, does a change of address become a new registration, with a 30-day waiting period, or does the change of address become effective immediately?

The open records response we received suggests that Claudia Ordaz Perez’ “effective date” is January 13, 2004. That is the date she turned 18 years old and the date she registered to vote. However, a lawsuit filed by her husband suggests otherwise.

The Vince Perez Lawsuit

On December 29, 2015, Ordaz Perez’ husband, Vince Perez, sued the El Paso County Democratic Party and several officials asking that the court force them to remove his opponent, Antonio Quintanilla, from the March 2016 Democratic Primary ballot. [3] In the lawsuit, Vincent Perez alleged that Quintanilla did “not meet the requirements” in the election code because Quintanilla “was not registered to vote in Precinct 3.” [3]

According to the court documents, Quintanilla “changed his voter registration on December 7, 2015, only eight days before the December 14, 2015 filing deadline.” [3] As per the court record, although “Quintanilla was registered to vote in El Paso County since November 20, 2009,” his change of address made him ineligible to run against Vince Perez. At issue was not whether Quintanilla was registered to vote the required six months, but whether the change of address’ “effective date” made him ineligible to run.

Simply, Vince Perez was arguing that Antonio Quintanilla, although a registered voter, was not eligible to run in Precinct 3 because he was “not a registered voter of Precinct 3, six months before the December 14, 2015 deadline.” [3]

It important to point out that the county commissioner’s requirements are slightly different from the state representative’s requirements. Vince Perez and Antonio Quintanilla were running in a county commissioners race. That race has the requirement that the candidates be registered in the area they are running for, in their case, Precinct 3. The state representative office does not have that requirement.

However, a candidate for state representative must live in the district 12 months “before date of the general election”. (Texas Secretary of State, Qualifications for All Public Offices website accessed on November 11, 2021) The 2022 general election is Tuesday November 8, 2022. For Claudia Ordaz Perez to run against Art Fierro she needs to have lived in District 79 since November 8, 2021.

Claudia Ordaz Perez filed her change of address on October 12, 2021 moving her into Art Fierro’s district. The question is, when does the move into Fierro’s district become effective? On the day she filed the change of address or thirty days later?

The Vince Perez lawsuit addressed this issue. According to the affidavit submitted by Lisa Wise, Antonio Quintanilla submitted his change of address form electronically on December 7, 2015. The “effective date of his registration for his new address is January 6, 2016.” This is 30 days after Quintanilla filed his change of address. [4]

The Court ruled on January 11, 2016 and issued an opinion on the same day. The ruling removed Quintanilla from the ballot as requested by Vince Perez. [5] In its ruling, the Court pointed to Sec. 141.001 of the Texas Election Code, specifically the requirement that a candidate “be registered to vote in the territory from which the office is elected.” Quintanilla and party officials argued to the court that the phrase “territory from which the office is elected” means the County of El Paso. Vince Perez, on the other hand, argued that the phrase meant Precinct 3. [6]

The Court of Appeals ruled that “territory,” in the case of Quintanilla, was defined as Precinct 3. Applying the same standard, Claudia Ordaz Perez must reside in District 79 to run against Fierro. As noted above, Ordaz Perez filed a change of address on October 12, 2021, putting her in District 79. The question then become, did she file her change of address moving her into District 79 in time to meet the residency requirements to run against Fierro?

As we also noted above, Ordaz Perez must be living in District 79 by November 8, 2021 to meet the residency requirement. Her change of address was accepted on October 12 suggesting that she meets the requirement.

However, in Vince Perez’ lawsuit the “effective date” is the determining factor as to when the clock on the residency requirement begins. Specifically, it takes thirty days after a change of address for the registration to become effective.

Claudia Ordaz Is Ineligible To Run Against Art Fierro Or Lina Ortega

The Court ruled in the Vince Perez case that “Quintanilla’s voter registration was not effective until the 30th day after he submitted his address change.” [6] Claudia Ordaz Perez filed her change of address electronically, like Quintanilla, on October 12, 2021. Thus, her change of address in District 79 does not become effective until November 11, 2021. The General Election is schedule for November 8, 2022. This leaves Claudia Ordaz Perez three days short of meeting the requirement to be a “District Resident” for 12 months in District 79 before the general election.

The court ruling in Vince Perez’ lawsuit in 2015 says that his wife, Claudia Ordaz Perez, is not eligible to run in District 79 against Art Fierro because she is three days short of the required twelve months of being a resident in the district she seeks. Ironically, it was her husband’s lawsuit that makes her ineligible to run against Art Fierro.

To add further irony, Claudia Ordaz Perez by filing her change of address to run against Fierro, has also likely made herself ineligible to run in Lina Ortega’s district as well. This is because she moved out of that district and no longer meets the requirement to run against her. Even if Ordaz Perez were to change her voter registration back to her marital home today, it would be too late for her to get back on the ballot in her district that was merged into Lina Ortega’s.

Footnotes:

  1. Melissa Soto, Elections Administration Coordinator, County of El Paso, response to open records request to County Elections Department filed on November 5, 2021, by the author, County of El Paso Elections Department, November 9, 2021.
  2. Patrick Svitek, “Democratic states Reps. Claudia Ordaz Perez and Art Fierro will vie for the same El Paso House seat due to redistricting,” The Texas Tribune, November 1, 2021.
  3. Vincent M Perez Petition for Writ of Mandamus, In The Court of Appeals For The Eighth District of Texas (08-15-00381-CV), December 29, 2015.
  4. Affidavit of Lisa Wise, El Paso County Elections Administrator, Attached as Exhibit A in Vincent M Perez Relator’s Motion For Emergency Stay, In The Court of Appeals For The Eighth District of Texas (08-15-00381-CV), December 29, 2015.
  5. Judgement, Vincent M Perez Petition for Writ of Mandamus, In The Court of Appeals For The Eighth District of Texas (08-15-00381-CV), January 11, 2016.
  6. Opinion, Vincent M Perez Petition for Writ of Mandamus, In The Court of Appeals For The Eighth District of Texas (08-15-00381-CV), January 11, 2016.
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We are on a mission to deliver the news and information important to you. Information that no one else is covering. We believe that public policy is grounded on an informed citizenry. We provide information based on analytical analysis that is well-sourced to allow readers to understand the policy decisions that affects their lives. We keep our reporting open to give everyone access to our reports. We are self-funded. This allows us to be independent and we are not influenced by stakeholders on how and what we report.

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2 replies »

  1. Did this local “power couple” really just derail themselves? I hear the school districts are looking for substitute teachers.

    Like

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