By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – The Bell County Commissioners are not happy with local Democratic party leaders who strongly criticized the policies and actions of the county clerk's office recently, particularly the election staff.
In the County Commissioners Court workshop Monday, the commissioners, all members of the Republican Party, denounced the statements in a letter to the editor printed in Sunday's Killeen Daily Herald from Democratic election judge Glenda Turck.
The letter criticizes election clerk Jana Henderson.
Henderson said the letter contains several factually incorrect points. In addition to the factual errors, Henderson said the assertions made in the letter about changing election staff members are also incorrect.
Those assertions were also made by Bell County Democratic Party Chair Arthur Resa.
Commissioner Tim Brown said Resa had "dropped the ball" on several occasions in this election, and added he shouldn't be making accusations that are not supported by the facts.
Commissioner Eddy Lange said, "It doesn't matter how good the election goes, Arthur Resa is going to find something to complain about."
Resa is concerned that the staff members working in the polling locations are primarily Republican, since most of the election judges are Republican.
The party affiliation of the chief judge is based on the precinct representation at the last gubernatorial election, one in which the Democrats had a poor turnout. In the past, Resa said, the county clerk or the election clerk had more direct control, hiring the staff members to ensure that every spot had equal party representation.
County Clerk Shelley Coston said Bell County Democrats have been offering their opposition to the situation, saying their representatives have been misled.
"We were told by the Democrats that we are supposed to be doing it the old way," Coston said. "We're continuing to get great opposition."
Resa said it's always been done a certain way, with aid from the county staff and the election officials. He said Henderson should have informed them if there was a change.
"It was just assumed that it would work that same way again," Resa said.
He said he gave Henderson a list of Democrats to hire for staff and alternate judges on the last day to do so in July, and said Henderson told him that was sufficient. He said alternate judges started calling him wondering why they hadn't been called to participate.
"As we got closer to the elections, we expected the election clerk, Jana, to tell the alternate judges how many workers they could hire," Resa said. "That's how it's been done before. She was under the mindset that it would work the same way."
This is Henderson's first presidential election in the position, and said she's just following the election code correctly – in the past, the procedures did not conform with election code guidelines.
County Attorney Rick Miller supported Henderson, saying "like most letters to the editor, it has opinions totally unsupported by the facts."
Henderson said it's not her fault Resa doesn't know the rules.
"If things had been done wrong in the past, and now we're doing them right, he thinks I should tell him," Henderson said Monday. "I'm following the election code every day I'm in this job. It's his responsibility to know the election code, he's the party chair."
Resa said that since Henderson isn't hiring the staffers, the Republican judges are cherry-picking Republicans to work the polls and ignoring long-time Democrats who have experience, but not the right party affiliation.
"In the past, we had equal representation, equal number of Democrats and Republicans behind that table when voters come up," Resa said. "Yes, it has a potential of effecting the election. She's basically saying that she has no control over the people that work her polls ... I'm concerned they'll try to influence the voters."
Henderson said it's absurd to think that her staff members will try to influence voters.
"There is absolutely representatives from both parties at every polling location," she said. "For (Resa) to make a blanket statement like that, it's totally false. As long as I have good people voting at both polling locations, I'm not worried."