By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
The question of retaining City Hall as an early voting location for the upcoming city recall and constitutional elections in November has been settled by state law.
Killeen City Attorney Kathy Davis informed the City Council on Tuesday that the Texas Election Code forbids one county commission precinct having more than twice the polling locations of any other district.
"What we have here are four commissioner districts, one of which has only one early voting location. The other three have two," Davis said.
"If we add in a third one (here in Killeen), we have one district that has three times one other commissioner's district."
Davis said she was contacted by Bell County election officials late Tuesday afternoon informing her of the problem.
Killeen has the option of holding an election independent of the county. However, Davis said it would be nearly impossible to order election equipment for city use and print new ballots.
"At this point, it is too late for us not to join the county," Davis said.
Upon hearing this, the council voted to table the proposed ordinance to restore City Hall as an early voting location.
The issue of closing City Hall as an early voting location came up at the Sept. 13 council meeting. At that point, Davis informed the council that the closing would keep the city consistent for the November elections, which are conducted and staffed by the county. Davis also pointed to historically low early voting turnout at City Hall.
Councilman Billy Workman objected at that meeting to closing City Hall for early voting, saying it creates a hardship for those without transportation to have to vote elsewhere. However, the council voted 4-3 to proceed with the closing - a vote that Councilman Kenny Wells later said may have been in haste.
"It's going to be impossible to have City Hall as a voting place," said Wells, who requested the council revisit the issue and intended to change his previous vote. "Why we didn't get this information before, I don't know."
The Killeen Community Center and the Priest Drive courthouse annex will still serve as early voting locations. Early voting begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 recall election is Oct. 11.
In other action Tuesday, the council conducted a second public hearing on annexing 153.314 acres of land approximately a half-mile south of the Stan Schlueter Loop near Bunny Trail. The land is currently owned by Bentina Ltd., which requested annexation.
There were no public comments for or against the issue. The council approved the request in a 7-0 vote. More action is expected at the council's Oct. 11 meeting.
After the meeting, the council immediately went into a workshop and discussed the city's sign ordinance.
Councilman Michael Lower requested discussion on the issue due to several concerns brought to him by automotive business owners along Central Texas Expressway regarding banner signs.
The council agreed to possibly revisit the ordinance in a future meeting after meeting with business owners and hearing specific complaints.
Contact Sean Wardwell at 501-7552 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.