Assistant credited with helping to avert voting mishap
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 by Sonya Campbell
An observant Bell County employee is being credited with discovering an omission in an email sent from Adjutant General of the U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jason T. Evans recently to military members regarding voting procedures for the 2012 General Election.
In the email, Evans explained the process for submitting federal write-in ballots, but inadvertently omitted a key step that likely would have led to the rejection of an undetermined number of ballots, according county officials said.
During Commissioners Court on Monday, County Clerk Shelley Coston credited an election assistant with acting quickly to avert a potentially significant problem.
Explaining how the situation unfolded, Coston said the election assistant, who also serves as a military reservist, received the notice from Evans in his personal email.
In the notice, Evans emphasized the importance of voting.
"As the Army's Senior Service Voting Representative, I encourage you to exercise your constitutional right by participating and casting your vote in the 2012 General Election," the email read.
Evans also reiterated the need to act quickly and reminded military members to check with their local election office about voting requirements, which can vary from state to state.
"It is important you complete and send your Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) immediately to ensure it is received by your state local election office no later than your state's deadline. Requirements differ from state to state; check with your Unit Voting Assistance Officer (UVAO) for your state's voting information. The 2012 General Election is quickly approaching, so please don't wait until the last minute to send in your absentee ballot. It's a Freedom you Defend -Vote!" the email read.
But Coston said before a federal write-in absentee ballot can be counted, the voter must apply to receive a ballot.
"The step that was left out was that a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) be submitted first," she said. "An FPCA is equivalent to an Application for Ballot by Mail."
Although the error would have come to light when the ballots were initially received, it was unlikely the troops would have had enough time to follow the correct procedures and resubmit a ballot by mail before the Oct. 30 deadline, she said.
Coston commended her employee for recognizing the problem and acting quickly to resolve the situation.
"He was diligent in his duties as an election assistant by bringing the matter to my attention," she said.
The error was discovered Oct. 18 and resolved within about an hour.
Once informed about the situation, Precinct 4 County Commissioner John Fisher contacted retired Col. Bill Parry, who serves as executive director for the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.
Fisher credited Parry with helping to resolve the matter.
The election assistant wished to remain unidentified.
Also on Monday, the Commissioners Court announced the General Election early voting dates and times: Oct. 22-26, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Oct. 27, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Oct. 28, noon to 5 p.m.; and Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early voting locations also were noted. They include the Bell County Courthouse Annex at 550 E. 2nd Ave. in Belton, the county annex at 301 Priest Drive and the Killeen Community Center at 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Killeen, the county annex at 205 E. Central Ave. in Temple, the Salado Civic Center at 601 N. Main in Salado and the Parks & Recreation Center at 307 Millers Crossing in Harker Heights.
The General Election is Nov. 6, with voting taking place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Precinct locations are listed at www.bellcountytx.com/couty_government/county_clerk/elections.
To apply for a ballot by mail, write the Bell County Clerk's Election Department at P.O. Box 480, Belton, TX 76513 or 1201 Huey Road, Belton, TX 76513.
Mail-in ballots must be received – not just postmarked – by Oct. 30.
In other business, the court:
- Approved the purchase of computer hardware for the Road & Bridge yard for about $9,450 and a contract with Cartegraph in the amount of $45,500 for software, implementation and technical services.
- Approved a variance for a tract of land with 123 feet of road frontage in a sale from Armstrong Community Center to Armstrong Water Supply Corporation. The property is located in the Belton ETJ, along Armstrong Road in Precinct 1.
- Approved a contract between Bell County's Human Services Department and Central Texas Workforce Development Board/Information and Referral System regarding staffing of the 2-1-1 Information and Referral Call Center in Belton.
- Approved a contract between the Department of State Health Services and Bell County pertaining to vital statistics/records services from Sept. 1, 2012, through Aug. 31, 2013.
- Authorized the county auditor to advertise for Requests for Proposals for cutting and bailing hay on about 68 acres of county property on Landfill Road.
- Awarded bids for four vehicles for various county departments.
- Rejected all bid responses for three vehicles and authorized their purchase through the BuyBoard – a cooperative purchasing program, thereby saving the county more than $19,000.
- Authorized the county auditor to place computer equipment for sale on eBay.
- Approved a contract with CST Covers, using insurance money to repair the Bell County Expo Center dome. The dome had incurred hail damage.