Rep. Donna Howard won the House District 48 seat by four votes over Republican Dan Neil, according to state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas. Hartnett was appointed to investigate their election after Neil challenged the results.
Neil, a Travis County Republican, ran against Howard for the seat in the November general election and lost by 16 votes. He asked for a recount but lost again by 12 votes. He took the matter to the state House of Representatives.
Hartnett's recommendation goes now to a select committee chaired by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, which in turn will make a recommendation to the full House. The House's decision is final. Neil can, if he chooses, withdraw his appeal at any time.
During the four-day hearing, Neil's lawyer, Joe Nixon, argued the margin of votes was too close to definitively declare a winner. Howard's lawyer, Randall "Buck" Wood, said Neil could not request a recount just because he did not like the results.
Seven voters moved out of Travis County but did not change their address before voting in the election, Hartnett wrote in his recommendation. Hartnett opened four ballots during the course of the trial and did not count one of those votes because of ineffective registration, which left Howard's margin of victory at four votes, he said.
"We have completed step one of this process, and we intend to take our case to the committee," Nixon said in a statement. "We believe the evidence presented in recent hearings is worthy of a different finding, and we are confident the committee will agree."
The report will be released later tonight is available here, and a specially appointed committee of lawmakers will review the evidence.