Friday, April 8, 2022

Fewer Polling Locations for Hotly Contested RISD Board Election?

 On April 6, 2022 Community Impact reports that Dallas County may “temporarily” close some polling elections for this May’s election due to a polling worker shortage. According to Community Impact, the Elections Department requested 68 of the 469 polling location centers be closed. The Lake Highlands Community Impact article focused on Richardson ISD and Lake Highlands locations.

RISD District 5 Map with
Potential Closed Polling Location

What the Community Impact article did not tell you is that four of those polling places are in the hotly contested RISD Place 5 Board district. That was the Board of Trustee location vacated suddenly by former Board President Karen Clardy in her bid to stave off the exit of now-former Superintendent Dr. Jeanie Stone. More after the jump.

Community Impact mislabels five of the ten as being in Richardson when they are actually in Dallas. They are within the Richardson Independent School District. Four of those five serve voters for RISD Board of Trustee Board District 5.

Potential RISD Polling Location Closures
as reported by Community Impact (04/06/2022)

Former District Five Trustee Karen Clardy suddenly resigned on September 24, 2021. At the time, she made no statement about why which – as one can guess – led to plenty of speculation. She eventually opened up for a Dallas Morning News interview, where she stated she left with the tiny hope that the Board would subsequently get behind Jeanie Stone. Dr. Stone announced her “voluntary” resignation on December 10, 2021, which was accepted unanimously at a later Board of Trustees meeting.

“I was not going to be part of the board that got rid of Dr. Jeannie Stone. ... They have just made a huge mistake... When I left, I feared where the board was going, [and] ... thought, maybe if I step down, maybe the dynamics would change.” -- Karen Clardy

Trustees did not appoint a replacement for Clardy and have not permanently replaced Dr Jeanie Stone.
Six candidates are vying for 2 contested seats. District 4 Regina Harris, current RISD Board President, and only its second black member is uncontested.

Three candidates are vying for Clardy’s vacated District 5 seat: Kile Brown, Rachel McGowan, and Jan Stell.

Incumbent Eron Linn in District 2 is being challenged by Sherry Clemens and Vanessa Pacheco. As far as I can discern none of the polling locations proposed for closure serve RISD District 2.

(Full Disclosure: Like fellow blogger Mark Steger, I will make RISD Board of Trustee recommendations in the near future. If any candidate would like to reach out to me, then I am available to talk.)

The contested elections and past controversy creates a question as to whether Dallas County is aware that there may be a larger turnout for this District 5 seat? Are they aware that the debate regarding Dr. Stone’s departure, a Board of Trustees that some commenters have called “dysfunctional,” and culture clashes that have reached into RISD may bolster voter turnout?

Community Impact quoted Dallas County Elections Administrator Michael Scarpello, who expressed concern about not having enough poll workers.

“We have two upcoming countywide May elections, and we’re very concerned about recruiting poll workers for those elections,” Scarpello said. “We’re concerned because there’s a general shortage of labor in every industry; we’re concerned because of the large number of polling places.”

Quick Aside: One of the locations slated for temporary closure is the RISD Professional Development Center on Belt Line in Richardson. I would have expected Richardson Heights Elementary to be on the list. (Richardson Heights Elementary and the RISD Professional Development Center are across the street from one another.) I would have expected Richardson Heights to be proposed for closure because its precinct has two polling locations. The other is the heavily trafficked Richardson Civic Center. I am not an attorney, but that might violate Section 43.001 of the Texas Election Code, which states that each precinct can have one polling location. Neither precinct has an RISD Board Seat up for this election.

In Dallas County, all voters can vote in all locations, including on election day. I spoke with Dallas County election staff to confirm this. In the past, this option was only limited to early voting. If you voted in the past on election day, you had to go to your home precinct. A few election cycles ago, that changed, and now on election day, any Dallas County voter can vote at any Dallas County polling location. That alleviates the absolute need for those locations. That said, I am not sure how well known that change is.

Are voters aware they can vote anywhere? Imagine a voter who has voted at one of these closed District 5 locations many times and is unaware of the change and its closure. That voter shows up on election day only to find it closed. What does that voter then do? Do they figure out that they can vote anywhere?

Dallas County Commissioners Court will discuss this temporary change at a specially called meeting on April 13, at 1:15 PM at the Dealey Plaza Administration Building at 411 Elm St. in Dallas.

1 comment:

  1. This request, which might or might not be granted at the April 13 meeting, is being made because of an anticipated shortage of poll workers. At least one polling location during the primary election, opened late for this reason. My suggestion to everyone is to utilize the early voting locations and dates. These are more likely to be adequately staffed than some of the Election Day sites.