By Betsy Dolan
Voters in Fort Bend County are being urged to cast their ballots early to avoid potential confusion after a chaotic redistricting battle that pushed the primary election back to Tuesday, May 29. Legal challenges to the state’s new political maps delayed the elections from their original date of March 6. Now that court-ordered maps are in place and the primary date has been set, Fort Bend County is facing several challenges with having elections in May as well as with getting updated election information to voters.
“We’re encouraging people to be patient”, said John Oldham, Fort Bend County Elections Administrator. “Everyone who wants to vote and who is registered to vote will be able to vote.”
One area of concern are those voter certificates that expired on December 31, 2011. Replacement voter registration cards will automatically renew and, in compliance with federal law, be mailed to voters by April 25. Once voters get their new registration cards, they should pay attention to their assigned voting precinct as it may have changed due to redistricting.
“Half of the voters in Fort Bend County will go to a new polling place which is adding to voter confusion and explains the push for early voting,” Oldham said.
Further complicating matters is the quick turn around time between the cities and schools election on May 12 and the primary on May 29. “Basically it means we have to run two elections at the same time,” Oldham said. In addition, Republicans and Democrats will not share voting booths like they did in 2010.
“This year, each political party will have their own voting booths and their own poll workers at all 64 polling locations”, Oldham said. “Which means twice as much equipment and workers are needed at each voting site.”
The long Memorial Day weekend is also a problem as it occurs just before the primary election day on May 29. Polling locations, like schools, will not be open on Monday for the election set-up and there are concerns that poll workers may not be available for training over the long holiday weekend.
“It seems confusing and complicated but at least things are back on track now. Voters will get new voter certificates. The primary election will happen the Tuesday after Memorial Day. We’re asking voters to consider casting early ballots. We just don’t want voters so confused that they regard it as too much of a hassle to vote,” Oldham said.
Early voting for the primary election begins on May 14 and ends May 25. Voters can find updated election information at www.VoteTexas.gov.