Close to $120K for voter participation in Fort Bend
By Elsa Maxey
Fort Bend County has $119,886 available for activities to enhance voter registration and participation, recently acknowledged by Fort Bend County Commissioners during one of its regular meetings. The money is authorized by state statute to help defray the county’s voter registration expenses. The availability of the funds originates from historic legislation passed in the mid 1960’s after the poll tax was declared unconstitutional and abolished.
Some may recall or may have been told that there used to be a poll tax, adopted in Texas in 1902, which was a $1.50 to $1.75 fee, paid by prospective eligible voters to register to vote. Today, every county resident who is U.S. citizen over the age of 18 meeting voter eligibility requirements may register to vote and will have the right to vote in elections, a right taken for granted as evident in recent voter turnouts.
For almost 50 years, Texas has allocated the funds for voter participation, which used to be directly deposited in a county’s treasury until 1987. Now the disbursement of money requires prior approval before it is provided. It is intended to pay for items or services that will increase the number of registered voters, maintain and report an accurate list of registered voters and/or increase the efficiency of the voter registration office.
“We typically use these funds to pay for temp workers processing voter registration forms in peak times,” Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham told the Star. He also said the funds have been used to pay for hardware upgrades, staff training and for software license fees for voter registration software.
But the amount is not always the same and Oldham said it “varies widely year to year.” The county’s elections administration reports it has not yet developed a budget for the 2014 funds. Any expenditures, said Oldham, have to be approved be the Secretary of State, Nandita Berry.
Berry, appointed by Governor Rick Perry and sworn into office at the beginning of the year, is the first Indian-American to hold the office. She is married to Houston area radio talk show host and Fort Bend business owner Michael Berry.
Short URL: http://www.fortbendstar.com/?p=41497