TEMPLE — Although Temple’s city charter is written in black and white, there seems to be a lot of gray areas, including the section detailing the rules regarding a recall election.
On March 3, Matilda “Mari” Paul presented city employees with notification she was launching a recall election.
Paul’s concerns about being asked to delete emails from Bell County-run HELP Center computers led to an arrest warrant issued Tuesday for Judy Morales, Temple mayor pro tem and former HELP Center director.
Paul said she asked the city secretary for clarification on a particularly confusing charter passage, which requires at least 30 percent of registered voters of the city to recall an at-large position such as mayor or 30 percent of registered voters in a single-member district to recall a council member.
“The city secretary just looked at me and said, ‘Get a lawyer,’” Paul said. “If they give me a formula (the number of signatures needed) I’ll go out and get them.”
To recall a specific council member such as Morales, who represents District 2, Paul would need to get 30 percent of the voters in District 2 to sign her petition. No one knows how many registered voters are in District 2.
“We’re still working on breaking Temple down into single-member districts,” said Shawn Snyder, Bell County’s election administrator, at the Bell County Commissioners Court workshop meeting Monday.
The elections department has worked with city personnel since last fall to update Temple’s elections infrastructure, only to run into repeated problems.
Almost every week Snyder updated commissioners about Temple’s elections department issues, which ranged from vendor selection to incompatibility of software packages.
At one point in mid-December, Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown joked that the county should start billing the city for the time county personnel were spending solving “Temple’s problems.”
All of which is little comfort for Paul, who said she finds it hard to believe that neither the city nor the county knows how many voters are in a Temple council district. She said state-issued voter identification cards “don’t list what district you’re in.”
Paul added that despite the difficulty, she spends 12 to 14 hours a day in city parks and retail store parking lots asking for signatures and then another four hours matching those signatures with voter registration lists.
One of the main difficulties Paul faces is the timeline.
She has 30 days from March 5, the date when she signed the petition at a Temple council meeting, to turn in more than 11,000 eligible signatures.
After Paul submits the signatures, the city secretary has 20 days to certify enough signatures are eligible, according to the city charter. For a signature to be eligible, it not only has to have a resident’s name and voter registration number, but also an address.
Once the council is presented with a certified recall petition, council members who face a recall election have five days to resign their positions. If they don’t, the city must hold an election.