Runoff recount in Sugar Land council District 3 race brings up need to examine voter registration
By Elsa Maxey
The petitioned recount for the June 11 runoff election results is not anything new for voters in this area. Howard Paul lost to Amy Mitchell for the District 3 council seat, according to the unofficial numbers reported after the election, 790 to 791, just one vote difference giving credence to the adage that every vote counts. But, the votes are not considered final until they are canvassed.This Tuesday, the Sugar Land City Council was to have done it to declare a winner, who cannot be seated. There’s a pending recount.
Paul petitioned for the recount on June 15, according to Sugar Land City Secretary Glenda Gundermann. She said the recount is scheduled for today, Wednesday, at 9 a.m. at the Fort Bend County Election Administration Office, 4520 Reading Road in Rosenberg. Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham said this is the City of Sugar Land’s recount and his office is providing support.
Gundermann told the “Star”, “If the recount changes the number of votes, regardless of change in the outcome, there will be a canvass of the recount using the Recount Committee report,” which she said will take place on June 28 at a scheduled city council meeting. The Recount Committee consists of the recount supervisor, who is Mayor James Thompson or his designee; each candidate, also each with two representatives; and the custodian of the ballots, Oldham. According to Oldham, the committee will only do a recount and not make any determination on valid or rejected ballots.This has been already done by another committee.
Last week, Oldham said there were three overseas ballots received, two of them mailed together from Taiwan and another one from the same place that came separately. The two that came together, he said, were picked up by an overseas carrier, DHL, on June 15, after the election. They were rejected. The third ballot came in last Wednesday, a day before the two others. It was mailed on Election Day and considered to be timely received. The determination by the early voting ballot committee, however, was that the person’s signature on the ballot envelope did not match the signature on the ballot by mail application.
One can presume that the votes may have been for Paul; however, this is unknown since the ballots remained sealed and were reviewed on the basis of timely receipt, being sealed and having a signature and a match with the application to receive a ballot.
What has been brought into focus as a result of the runoff is that in order to register to vote in Texas, a person does not have to show proof of citizenship. Oldham confirmed this fact noting that all an individual needs to do is simply state citizenship. “If there is some reason to believe citizenship may be in question, then proof is requested,” he said. For example a person summoned to jury will claim that he is not a citizen, which requires a check, he said.
Conceivably, citizens of other countries visiting Texas could register to vote claiming U.S. citizenship, request ballots by mail for local elections, timely mail them in from their native countries, and impact a voting outcome. Since the state legislature is meeting in special session, albeit for other specific purposes, could this be the time to consider closing a big hole in the voter registration process with a new law?
In the meantime, the recount outcome for the Sugar Land runoff election is forthcoming, as will the final outcome for seating the new council member in District 3.