Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 5, 2014

Paper ballots still on tap for runoff

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Although other Texas counties have suspended use of paper ballots for elections, Cherokee County will continue to use paper ballots, according to County Elections Administrator Shannon Cornelius.

Some concerns were raised after county Republican Party Club chairman Jerry Rix originally decided to nix paper ballots “because we've got voting machines – a little bit better than half the people who vote use the machine, so it's kind of useless to have paper ballots,” he explained.

However, after being contacted by local Sen. Robert Nichols and Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis, who both “asked me to rescind that decision,” Rix concurred.

“To me, the decision to not use paper ballots was strictly a finance decision that would save us money, but they wanted to have paper ballots for the runoff. I have a great amount of respect for both of them, so I agreed to use them,” he said.

Cornelius said use of paper ballots “have never gone away; we've always offered them” in Cherokee County elections.

However, she added, “many surrounding counties don't offer paper ballots” for financial reasons.

“Because when you order so many ballots, you basically have a lot of unused ballots at the end of the election, and it would save a lot of money if a county went strictly to machines,” Cornelius said.

Ultimately, the cost comes out of residents' pockets, Rix said.

“The party pays (for a primary election) to the extent that it is financed by filing fees, but if those fees fall short – and they always do – the difference (to fund the election) comes from the Secretary of State's office, which is taxpayer money,” he said. “You can never really anticipate the number of ballots you'll need, and so you always end up at the end of the election throwing away unused paper ballots. And a lot of counties don't (use paper ballots for that reason). And this was my thought; it was strictly a financial decision to use only machines.”

Early voting for the May 27 primary runoff will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 19 through 23. Voters can cast ballots at the Cherokee County Elections Department, 138 W. 5th St. in Rusk; Jacksonville Public Library, 502 S. Jackson; or Alto First Baptist Church, 235 E. San Antonio St.

Residents have until April 28 to vote in the May runoff.

According to Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the Texas Secretary of State's Office, the state election law says that “once you chose a party for the primary season, you have to stick with it. So if you vote in the Republican primary, you can only vote in Republican runoff; if you vote in the Democratic primary, you can only vote in a Democratic primary runoff.”

However, one does not have to have voted in a primary election to vote in a primary runoff, she added.

“The main idea is that you don't get to participate in two different parties in the primary process,” Pierce explained.

Cornelius said residents can access information via the county website's Election Department page – www.co.cherokee.tx.us – the Election Department's Facebook page or by visiting the office in Rusk.