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Legislative Leadership

May 8, 2017

In March, I resigned my position as Chief Deputy Clerk for elections after completing some badly needed changes to the election process in Galveston County and inaugurating countywide voting center voting.  At the time of my departure; two important pieces of election legislation that I helped initiate remained unfinished.  Earlier this year Representatives Wayne Faircloth and Greg Bonnen introduced these measures.  They address the following issues:

  • During a primary runoff election, an election judge and alternate judge were yelling and screaming at each other.  We needed to resolve this disruption. With the concurrence of the Republican and Democratic Party chairs, one was reassigned to a different voting location.  Our problem: We did so without expressed authority.  HB 1735 fixes that!

  • In a local election an Early Voting Ballot Board (EVBB) mistakenly rejected three provisional voter ID-related ballots.  All of us wanted to correct this mistake by going before a District Court Judge, but we didn’t have “standing.”  In the November 2016 election five absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected for counting by the EVBB but again, we were precluded from correcting these inadvertent errors.  HB 1735 remedies this!

  • In another local election none of the candidates in two city council races receive a majority of the votes forcing a runoff.  The problem: The election code only authorizes the use of a countywide vote center for the May elections, not for subsequent runoffs.  HB 2691 corrects this!

  • There are no rules on how election judges and alternate judges are selected in countywide vote center counties.  Here in Galveston we have benefitted from a close working relationship between the parties helping ensure a fair and equitable selection process.  Other counties don’t enjoy this type of relationship.  In one county, a County Clerk simply ignored the list of potential appointees submitted by the parties and chose whomever she wanted.  With HB 2691, a procedure is established for a fair and equitable appointment process.

Working with key players in Austin, we have been able to forge an alliance with the State Republican and Democratic parties.  By seeking common ground and addressing the stakeholder’s issues – all the while ensuring we crafted a responsible solution – all the major players willingly testified in support of our legislation.  Nobody testified in opposition, not one!

Working with Wayne Faircloth’s office, his bill, HB 1735, was amended on the House floor by adding the language of Greg Bonnen’s bill (HB 2691).  The combined measure was adopted by voice vote without any opposition. This illustrates how legislative initiatives can be enacted while not compromising goals or principles, but it requires people working together. 

I’ve learned that legislative leadership is more than just getting bills introduced; it's the ability to pull together divergent views, find common ground, and to forge alliances to get things accomplished while serving the voters with integrity.

Our bill now moves to the Senate where we will continue to shepherd it.  If enacted, this means all of the Galveston County’s election legislation for this year will become law!  A win for our county and a win for voters all across Texas!

Bill "Sarge" Sargent

Bill Sargent Testifying on Election Legislation, May 11, 2017 before Senate State Affairs



Footnote:  On May 11th the Senate State Affairs Committee held hearings on our bill. The next step is reporting it to the full Senate for floor action.


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