So here it is, election day. One way or another this is going to be a historic day for El Paso, and the United States. It’s also been a day where my phone seems to be ringing non-stop.
I’ve received calls from voters saying that the write-in candidates are not posted at all polling places, or at the very least, not where they are easily visible. Simple enough to solve, you talk with the election judge where you are casting your vote, and they will rectify the situation.
For those calls, the problem is solved. There have been almost two dozen calls where people are wondering what qualifies a person to be an election judge.
How does one get that position, and does a past criminal history bar one from serving as a judge?
It was that question about criminal history that had me wondering as well. Before I acted, I wanted to verify the information I was being given. I check both public records with El Paso County as well as verifying a document sent to me concerning the criminal history of this one election judge
What did I find? I found arrests and convictions.
When I write about criminal charges, I am not talking about something like shoplifting or a bounced check or two.
No. I am talking about charges such as stalking (a class A misdemeanor), assault of a family member, criminal trespassing, and a prior arrest for sexual assault.
That last one, I cannot find if it was dismissed, transferred to another agency, or simply dismissed. Still, it as me worried.
How can someone with such a criminal history serve as an election judge? I wanted to know. So, I attempted to speak with Lisa Wise,
Elections Administrator for El Paso County. I was told that she was not able to see me but that someone else would be more than willing to talk with me.
I did want to make sure that they understood that I was going to write a piece on this. When I was finally able to speak to someone, I was told that I could not record them or quote them.
That right there had me worried. Why would you now want to address this issue in an open and transparent manner? Why the refusals to be interviewed? Makes me wonder.
I did receive an email from Lisa Wise saying that she, “talking to the party right now: they’re looking into it.”
What they did tell me was that if you are legally able to register to vote, you can serve as an election judge.
In the State of Texas, a felon does get their right to vote back upon completion of a prison sentence, parole or probation. Okay, not a problem. I can live with that. If ones past criminal history keep them from running for and holding elected office should they not then be barred from working as an election judge? You would think so.
I did find out that election judges are appointed by Commissions Court. You can see the procedures here.
The only state laws I could find are these:
Prohibited if convicted of a felony and sentence is not fully discharged, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision or completion of a period of probation Completed 2016 (verified by Keith Ingram, Texas Secretary of State’s Office) 163 ordered by any court; unless pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability. Tex. Elec. Code § 11.002(4) (Thomson/West 2006).
A person is ineligible to serve as an election judge or clerk in an election if the person has been finally convicted of an offence in connection with conduct directly attributable to an election. Tex. Elec. Code § 32.0552 (Thomson/West 2006).
Prohibited if convicted of any felony, subject to such exceptions as the Legislature may make. The legislature shall enact laws to exclude from the right of suffrage persons who have been convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes. Tex. Const. Art. VI, § 1 (3) (Thomson/West 2006).
So, I’m left with more questions than answers. It’s unclear if a convicted felon can hold state office. The laws governing this are almost stitched together like a quilt and hard to wade through.
I do understand that people can be rehabilitated and make a complete 180 in their lives. But what is to stop them from pushing for their favorite candidate? What if this person is knowingly blocking people from voting, or even knowingly allowing felons who are on probation/parole to vote?
There are so many questions and not enough answers for this one. My opinion? There should be a background check prior to serving as an election judge.