West voters elected three city council members this week, as their ballots instructed. But there was a problem.

There were only two openings on the city council.

West Mayor Tommy Muska said the city used last year’s ballot as a template and failed to make corrections before sending the document to the county, which ran the election.

“That’s only the second mistake I’ve ever made,” Muska said. “The first mistake was thinking I don’t make any.”

West residents saw a ballot that allowed for them to vote for three of the six people vying for a spot on the city council. The three candidates with the most votes were to have won the election.

Candidate Joe Pustejovsky came in third, but there is no seat for him to fill.

Incumbents David Pratka and Karla Hoelscher Dulock came in first and second, respectively, to hold on to their seats, which were the only two open.

With 144 votes, Pustejovsky was just 11 votes shy of Dulock’s 155 votes and 17 votes shy of Pratka’s 161 votes.

Pustejovsky came in well ahead of Gary Greener’s and Casey Kelley’s 34 votes each and Kenneth Bagley’s 18 votes.

Muska, who ran unopposed to remain mayor, received 196 votes.

Muska said the ballot error “got by me” and was a glitch on the city’s part. He said he reached out to Pustejovsky to inform him of the error.

“It’s in his court if he wants to do anything, but he stated he’s fine,” Muska said.

Challenge possible

Per the Texas Election Code, Pustejovsky could challenge the election.

He declined comment Thursday.

Each of the six candidates has 30 days after the city canvases the vote to lodge an official election contest with a McLennan County district court, Texas Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor said. A judge would then determine if a new election is needed, Taylor said.

Canvass election

McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said each government entity that held an election Tuesday will canvass their election next week, ahead of the Nov. 20 deadline.

Muska said he thinks confusion caused by the city’s error was limited, because many voters only chose two candidates.

Of the 768 West voters, 222 did not select three city council candidates. Election reports do not detail whether the 222 voters selected one council candidate, two council candidates or only voted on statewide constitutional amendments.

West’s next city council election, in November 2018, will include three openings. The terms for council members Brian Muska and Cheryl Marak and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek will be ending.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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