Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fort Bend County Elections Chief Resigns On Opening Day

Just when we here in Texas are just settling down for a nice primary vote, early voting began today for the March 4th primary, our county elections administrator, J. R. Perez, pulled the plug and said “adios” to the Fort Bend Elections Commission.

But wait, when you tender your resignation, there is some sort of notice given, right? So the employer isn’t left in the lurch (especially on the first day of early voting). Most telling in all of this is the fact that the Commission made his resignation effective immediately.

According to FortBendNow:

“‘We have removed him from his responsibilities and replaced him with Robin Heiman,’ the first assistant elections administrator, said Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert, who also serves as Election Commission chairman, after the commission meeting.”
Yes, you heard that right: the county elections administrator quit on the first day of early voting in what is to be, very arguably, the biggest primary election voter turnout in living memory – and most likely, the largest turnout in Fort Bend County history.

The meeting today was behind closed doors. The press was barred from attending, being presented with an opinion of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on whether a meeting of an Elections Commission constituted a public meeting under the “Texas Open Meetings Act”. It wasn’t said Abbott.

So we will never really know what went on behind those doors, even though that particular meeting affected the voting ability of each and every registered voter of Fort Bend County.

Nothing new here. It fits the transparency test of “clear as Brazos River mud” Fort Bend County government.

In they all went, slam went the doors, and then 15 minutes later J. R. Perez left in the company of a county attorney.

Rumor has it that if J.R. didn’t tender his resignation, it would have been requested. By whom no one knows, but I assume it would have been requested by County Judge Hebert, who is the common denominator between the Elections Commission and the County Court. There, at the Court, it has been a most acrimonious time with county commissioners nipping at J.R’s heels over his remarks to the news media that he had not been receiving support from the county commission.

Then came J.R.’s recommendation that the county scrap its paperless electronic voting system, the infamous product of Hart Intercivic, in favor of an optical scanning system. This, by the way, would do nothing to alleviate the predicted long lines in the primary, or even in the presidential election in November. Perez said it was far too late in the day to make changes to prevent voter angst now or then.

But now, not only do we have ill-equipped polling sites, we have a decapitated county elections office.

Karl Rove, the Republican mastermind of voter suppression, couldn’t have done any better. Thanks to poor planning by the county commission, including their opting for the expensive dial-a-vote paperless system hated by every county voter I have talked to, and the hasty appointment of a county assistant who will run things, voters can now worry, and worry well, over whether their vote is going to count.

Early voting, Fort Bend voters. Early voting is your only real hope to get your vote in and counted. Get there early if you can, too. Stories of crowded early voting locations are already beginning to surface.


Anonymous said...

It sure gives me a great deal of confidence knowing Bob Hebert is on watch after Perez's exit (cynical yes, I am). Let's just give the races to whomever Bobby wants to win!

Anonymous said...

That's Old Texas logic: "If we give the customers good service they'll come to EXPECT good service!"

Anonymous said...

Perez has been warning of problems (I hear there's mobs at early voting - can't wait to see the lines on the actual day) since November of 2006, at least.

Of *course* he's been fired! Can't have a person you hired to do a job actually do the job you hired them to do, can you?

Oh, wait! He *wasn't* doing the job he was hired to do - he was a total failure as a yes-man.

Can we PLEASE vote the entire Commissioners' Court out of office ASAP? They saddled us with these paperless wonder eSlates in the first place, then fired the guy who was trying to get us paper ballots. They think a privately-owned tollway is a dandy idea. I could go on....

Anonymous said...

Administering elections is the single most important job for our county officials - the essence of a republic. Electronic voting is easily corruptible. Optical scanned paper ballots must be used to preserve the paper trail and make elections verifiable.