By Betsy Dolan
On May 30, Fort Bend Elections Administrator, John Oldham, is hoping he will get something that has eluded him for months: a good night’s sleep.”I’ve seen 3 a.m. more than I care to admit lately,” he said.
In a topsy-turvy election year where legal challenges to the state’s new political maps delayed the elections from their original date of March 6 to two separate dates in May, Oldham has had unexpected challenges educating voters about the new changes and preparing for two different elections in the same month. City and schools elections will be on Saturday, May 12 with the primary election two weeks later on Tuesday, May 29.
“Basically it means we have to run two elections at the same time,” Oldham said. “Some cities and school boards were able to cancel their elections which was a huge help.”
The area of biggest concern is the quick turn around time between the May 12 city and schools election and the first day of early voting in the primary which starts just two days later on May 14.
“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. “Voters might go to one polling place for the May 12 election and a different polling place for primary.” 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.” Oldham said. “We just don’t want voters so confused that they regard it as too much of a hassle to vote.”
Early voting for the primary election begins on May 14 and ends May 25. This year 17 early voting sites will be available to primary voters including three which have not been used in the past: Randall’s at Pecan Grove, Four Corners Community Center located at 15700 Old Richmond Road in Sugar Land, and Harmony Science Academy located at 22400 Grand Corner Dr, Katy.
Voters can find updated election information at www.VoteTexas.gov.