Wednesday, November 2, 2011

School district election generates voting confusion

Early voters turned away at the polls

Struggling school district, sanctioned by the state education agency, strives to cope with early voting rules

Reporting by R.S. Gates
Story by The Legendary Jim Parks

Moody – Eddie Newman couldn't believe it. He arrived to cast his early vote in a crucial school board election and the voting clerk turned him away from the polling place.

A former President of the Moody Independent School Board of Trustees and a sitting member of the board, Mr. Newman lives in one of the two adjacent counties served by the Moody schools, Bell and Coryell.

He was not the only one to be frustrated in his effort to cast his ballot. Elections officials turned early voters away at the polling place in this city in a conflict over the rules that even had attorneys and telephone receptionists at the Secretary of State's office scratching their heads.

Kurt and Dianna Hall, when alerted to the problem, went to First National Bank of Moody to vote. Once there, they learned they would have to cast their ballots at the early voting polling place in the county seat at Gatesville because they are residents of that county and not McLennan, where the school's physical plant is located at Moody. They were not allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

The election clerk told them they would not be counted, even if they did cast the ballot there.

The problem is simple enough. Elections officials in Gatesville are taking ballots for a local election only. There is no election for the Moody Independent School District in Gatesville. You can vote early for a school board election in Gatesville, but not for the board of trustees of the independent school district in Moody.

A telephone receptionist at the Elections Division of the Texas Secretary of State's office assured callers who live in Bell and Coryell counties that they must go to other towns such as Troy and Gatesville to cast their ballots.

But when the callers held out for an inquiry with a staff attorney, the man gave them a contrary opinion. He said they should vote at the bank building in Moody. A website of the Elections Division agrees with his opinion. (click the image above for a larger view)

But the election officials at that location will not allow them to cast even a provisional ballot. They are telling voters their ballot will not be counted if they live in another county and cast their ballot at Moody.

The Moody school district has been singled out for sanctions by the Texas Education Agency due to poor performance of students on the TAKS achievement tests. Moody schools will be left behind.

Administrators informed parents of Moody schools students on February 1 that in the coming academic year, their children will be allowed to attend school in other districts if they choose to send them there at the expense of the Moody Independent School District. The school district will be obliged to pay for the transportation of the transfer students, as well.

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