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Sullivan City cancels City Council election after two candidates submit incomplete ballot applications

Two first-time candidates for Sullivan City Council won by default Monday after their opponents submitted incomplete ballot applications.

City Councilman Jaime Villarreal and former City Councilwoman Sylvia Castillo skipped part of the application that asked how long they had lived in Sullivan City.

“Applications were received. Processed. And before they were submitted, two were rejected,” said City Attorney Frank Garza. “They had fatal flaws in them.”

Before a candidate runs for City Council, he or she must complete a ballot application.

“All information is required to be provided unless indicated as optional,” the application warns. “Failure to provide required information may result in rejection of application.”

Candidates are required to provide basic information about themselves, including a full name, date of birth, home address and occupation. They’re also required to answer questions about residency.

The form asks candidates how long they’ve lived in Texas and how long they’ve lived in the territory, district or precinct they want to represent.

Villarreal skipped both questions about residency. Castillo completed the section about Texas residency but left the section about local residency blank.

Castillo filed her application on Feb. 16. Villarreal submitted his application on Feb. 17, the filing deadline.

The city accepted the incomplete applications.

“The official that received my application received the ballot, looked at it and said: Everything was great, everything was perfect,” Castillo said.

Nobody informed her about the problem until after the filing deadline, Castillo said, which prevented her from correcting the mistake.

“I was not treated fairly and was not given an opportunity to get my application submitted correctly to be involved in the city elections,” Castillo said.

Garza said the city secretary may conduct a cursory review of the application, but the review is merely a courtesy. The candidate, not the city, is responsible for completing the application correctly.

Villarreal also failed to fill out a section about felony convictions.

People with final, unappealable felony convictions can’t hold public office in Texas unless they’re pardoned or “otherwise released from the resulting disabilities,” according to the state Election Code.

When they fill out a ballot application, candidates must either check a box that reads “I have not been finally convicted of a felony” or another box that reads “I have been finally convicted of a felony, but I have been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities of that felony conviction and I have provided proof of this fact with the submission of this application.”

Villarreal said he didn’t understand the question and decided not to check either box, even though the application warns: “You MUST check one.”

“But I didn’t,” Villarreal said. “I was skeptical.”

After reviewing the incomplete applications, Sullivan City declared Villarreal and Castillo ineligible. City Secretary Melissa Rocha informed them about the decision on Feb. 21, four days after the filing deadline.

The decision allowed two first-time candidates, Ruben Villalon and Nick Cerda, to win by default. Sullivan City declared them elected on Monday.

Villalon, 50, is self-employed. Cerda, 34, is a local teacher.

They will join the City Council in May.

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