Beaumont Independent School District’s elected leaders met Wednesday, Sept. 4, and decided to spend in excess of $40,000 in order to perform their own election without the blessings, approval or assistance of Jefferson County officials or a court order. Trustees who voted against the newly accepted plan are unsure of the legality in moving forward with a Nov. 5 election the way BISD’s Board of Trustees envisions it.
Concerns about BISD moving into the uncharted territory of performing elections were brought up Sept. 4 at a meeting where special legal counsel Chad Dunn, along with BISD attorney Melody Chappell, answered questions from members of the BISD Board of Trustees.
Dunn said BISD should enter into a contract with Education System Software (ESS) for about $25,000. According to him, BISD would be committed to the costs of the contract but only a “small amount” in retainer would be forfeited should BISD not be able to continue with the election it has planned for any reason.
Chappell said the number of machines contracted on rental from ESS was proportionate to the number of machines used by Jefferson County in the precincts where BISD has its only contested district race – that of District 7 representative Janice Brassard, who is being challenged by local businessman Joey Hilliard. Chappell said other costs will be incurred when putting on the election, as well.
“One thing we will have to get a cost for is balloting,” she said. Chappell added that a Spanish version and an oral ballot were also costs of balloting to be considered.
“We would run that through the administrator,” as well as the costs of poll workers, Chappell added. “We’d train them,” she said, and then pay at least two workers per polling location.
When BISD trustee Mike Neil questioned the problem in waiting another week for a court ruling on the legality of BISD’s proposed election, Dunn said time was of the essence.
Dunn said, “(Election administrator Jill Moffitt) needs to get to work.” BISD trustees approved on Wednesday the hiring of Moffitt for an anticipated cost of $15,000. Dunn said Moffitt had never been in charge of an election before, but that she had a good background in working for Harris County elections.
Jefferson County election administrator Theresa Goodness said no matter how BISD’s new election administrator performs, voting in BISD’s election will be confusing to some voters.
“Of course it would be a separate election that they will conduct, but they have to use the same polling places,” she said. “The thing is, we’ll make it clear which election we’re conducting, but voters will have to be cognizant.
“(Jefferson County is) using countywide poling places … but if (voters) want to vote in the school district election, they will need to do so in their own precinct.
“That will probably be very confusing to the voters.”