Johnson County Commissioner Jerry Stringer proposed the third of three options in hopes of lessening voter confusion but admitted the situation will pose a challenge under any option.
Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon agreed.
“I’m against anything that’s going to cause confusion in elections,” Harmon said. “But on this we’re going to have confusion anyway we go.”
The challenge comes from county growth, Johnson County Elections Administrator Patty Bourgeois said.
State law requires precincts to be split once their population exceeds 5,000. Such has become the case with precincts 2, 4, 7, 8 and 19 rendering them out of compliance with Section 42.006 of the Texas Election Code.
Timing compounds the problem too, Commissioner Rick Bailey said, given that redistricting is on the horizon following the 2020 Census.
A mass mail out is scheduled for December, Bourgeois said. The populations of precincts 2 and 19 may dip below 5,000, she said, depending on how many voters moved out of the precinct. The population numbers in the other three districts are such that any attrition gleaned from the mail outs likely won’t be enough to make a difference.
Redrawing the lines will affect the voting locations of more than 9,000 voters, Bourgeois said. The redrawing process will take about three months, she added.
The first option, Bourgeois said, would be to redraw the lines before Jan. 1.
Doing so would bring the county into compliance by year’s end, but commissioners rejected that option because of the time crunch involved. Option 1, Bourgeois said, would also increase voter confusion because it would entail multiple voter registration card mail outs. Plus it would disrupt next year’s primary and May elections.
Commissioners also rejected Option 2, which called for redrawing the lines in May or June. Doing so would allow more time and avoid disruption of the primary and May elections. But it would also leave the county out of compliance until 2021.
Option 3, and the one commissioners approved, leave the county out of compliance until Jan. 1, 2022. That option is to wait to redraw the lines along with any changes necessary in the 2021 redistricting process.
The pros of that option, Bourgeois said, are that the new precincts will be added at the same time commissioner boundary lines are changed, which should result in less voter confusion.
“The new county maps will include all boundary line changes, including the redistricting,” Bourgeois said.
Either way, Harmon said, next year’s presidential election will present a challenge.
“I predict a huge turnout,” Harmon said. “Probably the biggest voter turnout this county has ever seen.”