By Rebecca Rose
Killeen Daily Herald
In a 4-3 vote that drew strong objections from one member Tuesday, the Killeen City Council eliminated an early-voting location at City Hall.
City Attorney Kathy Davis said the reason for the change was to be consistent with November elections, which are conducted by the county.
This November, Killeen residents will vote in the state's constitutional amendment election, as well as a council recall election.
Davis said the county uses the Killeen Community Center and the Priest Drive annex as its early-voting locations, and staffing the additional site at City Hall was an issue.
"The early-voting clerks that we use are the same ones that the county uses," Davis said. "They have already been contracted to conduct the county's election."
"Two-thirds of Killeen early voters traditionally go to the community center," Davis said.
"That's where the voters are used to going; they're not used to going to City Hall for early voting because ... November elections are traditionally not city elections," she said.
"This request was made after a discussion with the county," Davis said. "They are in agreement with this request."
The move drew concerns from several councilmen, including Billy Workman.
"I don't care about the county," he said. "I care about my citizens in the city of Killeen."
Workman expressed concerns about senior citizens and disabled persons, who may lack adequate transportation to the
alternate polling sites.
In other action Tuesday, council members unanimously approved new district boundaries that would effectively displace District 4 Councilman Michael Lower from his seat.
The redistricting plan puts Lower's home in District 3, which would make him ineligible to serve as District 4's representative.
However, Davis said Lower would be able to serve out his full term - until May 2013 - before the change becomes effective.
"I did check with the Department of Justice and was notified that we would be able to delay the effective date (of the redistricting) until the day before the next regular district election, which will be in 2013."
"While you will adopt these maps tonight," Davis said, "the boundaries will not actually take effect until the very end of Mr. Lower's term."
Lower only recently joined the council. He was unanimously chosen by council members to fill the seat vacated by Councilman Ernest Wilkerson, who resigned in June.
The council began holding public hearings and discussing redistricting several months ago, when 2010 census information revealed that district boundaries, in the words of Davis, were "way out of balance."
Labeled "Option Two" for identification purposes, the change approved by the council Tuesday night shifts all district boundaries to the west.
Meanwhile, outside City Hall, as promised, recall organizer Jonathan Okray and the Killeen Tax Payers for Responsible and Accountable Governance gathered for a small but vocal protest.
At least seven people turned out to participate. Passing motorists honked and waved at Okray and other protesters, who all carried signs with slogans like "Do The Right Thing, Resign."
Okray said he was at the event to remind people about the recall petition drive that happened in April, and to remind them to vote in November. "They should not be as cavalier with our tax money," he said of the City Council.
Okray said he has permits and plans to be outside City Hall at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday to remind residents about the Nov. 8 recall election and to keep voters informed of the process.
In April, Okray organized a petition to recall the seven Killeen council members and Mayor Tim Hancock, following the council's controversial decision to buy out the contract of former City Manager Connie Green for $750,000.
Okray gathered nearly 10,000 signatures, effectively recalling all the council members.
Only Mayor Hancock was not recalled. Former Councilwoman Joann Purser lost her bid for re-election in May, exempting her from recall. Wilkerson's resignation in June also makes him exempt from the recall.
Contact Rebecca Rose at (254) 501-7548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.