Impasse Between Tom Green County Party Chair and Elections Administrator Casts Doubts on Local Primary Elections
SAN ANGELO, TX — Tom Green County Commissioners tabled finalizing election locations and details during their first meeting of the New Year because of concerns voiced by Republican Party Chairman Jeff Betty, as relayed by the County Elections administrator Vona Hudson.
According to Hudson, Betty expressed some concerns about the election process and indicated the Republican Party may hold its own independent primary. Betty was not present at the commission meeting this morning.
Betty said this morning in a phone interview he wants the elections office to release the elections returns sooner. During the 2016 presidential election, Harris County (Houston) released the early voting election returns shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. In Tom Green County, the early returns didn't arrive until after 8 p.m.
Betty denied he wants to hold his own primary. He said he was attempting to get the timeliness of Tom Green County returns addressed and didn’t believe Hudson was being responsive. Betty said he met with Hudson’s bosses, the County Elections Commission, Dec. 27 to air out his concerns.
In the past, the Democrat Primary Election and the Republican Party Election in Tom Green County have been held jointly, using the same judges and locations for the convenience of all voters. Joint elections cost less than separate primary elections. The Texas Secretary of State reimburses the respective county parties, who in turn reimburse the county for the cost of the elections, Betty said.
Hudson said Tuesday morning that the local parties couldn’t use voting centers if the primaries are held separately, so they would have to have polling locations in most precincts.
Betty said he has been asking for the county elections office to address his concerns, chief among them the timeliness of releasing the early returns, since he has been the Republican Chair. “This year, I decided not to take ‘no’ as an answer,” he said.
Betty said that the timeliness of releasing returns, and how fast they are reported here, when compared to other Texas counties, casts doubts on this county’s election process. Observing the late returns, the next question, Betty said, would be, “Are they really accurate?”
He said statewide candidates constantly complain to him about how late Tom Green County reports its early returns.
There’s only days left to resolved the impasse. Hudson said the State’s deadline for finalizing election plans is next Tuesday, January 9.
Betty said he is hoping to have a contract from Hudson’s office for operating the 2018 primary election. He said he usually has one signed before January prior to the March election in the past. He said he has not seen a contract yet.
County Jail Construction Consultant Hired
In other business, commissioners approved contracting with McClure Consulting, LLC. Pct. 4 Commissioner Bill Ford said, “We’re not sure of some things. There are really big unknowns with the jail and the courthouse.” As we reported earlier, plans to use both the new jail under construction and a portion of the existing jail are uncertain now after the Texas Commission on Jail Standards informed County officials of the requirements to operate two separate jails.
County Hires Private Investigator for County Attorney’s Office
And Tom Green County Attorney Chris Taylor introduced former San Angelo Assistant Police Chief Robert Martinez as the new investigator for the County Attorney. Martinez retired last year from the San Angelo Police Department.