Greetings! I hope we are all settling into the new year well and winding down from all the excitement the holidays bring. If you are like most, and I am, the
holidays have been good to us, and we see and feel that a little in our wasteline. Oh well, we now have this new year to work it all off, hopefully get into better shape, and become more healthy doing it.
Well…seems for those who are up for re-election and for elections in general, this redistricting situation has sprung disappointment, frustration and confusion. Not sure I fully understand it all myself. Thank goodness for our general counsel, Jim Allison, along with the Conference of Urban Counties and the Texas Association of Counties who have been keeping up with the issue and have been sending out updates informing us of what has transpired. A Joint Advisory has also been filed with the federal court. A few weeks back, a conference call was conducted regarding the issues and concerns the redistricting process and plans have caused, and some 20 counties participated to share their concerns. Below is a list of some timing concerns expressed by our elections administrators, which is included in the Joint Advisory:
- After issuance of redistricting plans, one to three weeks are required to prepare election precinct boundaries for adoption by commissioners courts. This time includes ensuring that there is an available polling place for each precinct.
- After approval of election precinct boundaries by commissioners courts, three to four weeks are required to update voter registration information to be able to print voter certificates and ballots. While part of this delay is caused by the required DOJ pre-clearance, a minimum of two weeks is required due to the required manual entry of voter data into the voter registration system to account for the new precinct boundaries.
- After updating voter registration information, two to three weeks are required to print voter certificates and ballots. Once the precincts and candidates are set, counties generally need 10 days to two weeks for the ballot generation, proofing, review by the political parties, and equipment testing before ballots can be printed and mailed. Counties that rely on a vendor to print their absentee ballots or program their voting equipment probably need three full weeks.
The maps finally issued by the court will determine the actual amount of time needed by
counties. If the final maps differ substantially from both the maps approved by the Texas Legislature and the maps previously ordered by the federal court, then counties impacted by those differences will require more time than set forth above. For that reason, counties are requesting that any election schedule ordered by the court at this time be contingent on final maps that are substantially similar to the maps approved by the Texas Legislature or the maps previously entered by the court.
Our county organizations are simply advocating for sufficient time in the adopted schedule for counties to physically be able to comply by conducting the elections. Counties should not have to spend significant staff time and expense making changes to voter registration records and mailing voter registration certificates for election precincts that are ultimately rejected by the Department of Justice.
There are other facts, requests, and concerns that I have not included in this column, but I hope you have received and read the e-mails that have been sent to commissioners court members from Jim Allison and the other organizations listed above. If you would like additional information, please contact us or speak to your elections administrator and/or county clerk. And now, a little humor I came across regarding this issue: “Texas always strives to be the biggest and best; AND now, we’ve got the biggest ‘election mess’ since Chad got hung in Florida. Dear Lord…just wake me up when it’s all over.”
Have a Blessed Day!