If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Phillip Williams
Upshur County Commissioners Court last week approved changes and adjustments in the county’s voting box precinct boundaries–a move which will impact the 2022 election for Republican and Democratic precinct chairmen on the parties’ respective executive county committees.
The changes, recommended by the Austin law firm of Allison, Bass and Magee, effectively reduced the maximum number of voting boxes from 21 to 19. Precinct 21, which had no voters, was eliminated, and Precinct 19, which had few voters, was consolidated to move into Precinct 1.
County Deputy Elections Administrator Kami Whitworth said Monday the revisions were necessitated by changes in congressional district boundary lines. She explained that a voting box precinct cannot include more than one congressional district.
The voting box precincts differ from the four precinct areas which respectively elect a county commissioner, constable and justice of the peace. Earlier this year, the court approved revising those precincts’ boundaries to better equalize the populations among them, a move required by federal law every 10 years if needed.
That vote resulted in moving parts of Precinct 1 into Precincts 2 and 3, while Precinct 4 was unaffected. Elections are scheduled next year for county commissioner, and justice of the peace, in precincts 2 and 4, but the change in precinct lines did not impact the incumbents, who are all Republicans unopposed for re-election.
In addition, County Judge Todd Tefteller noted at the Dec. 15 meeting in which voting box boundaries were changed that no existing precinct chairmen “got gerrymandered out” of their current precincts, and that the court’s action was legally required every 10 years.
The judge also reminded that under “countywide” voting, Upshur County voters can cast a ballot at any polling place in the county (although they cannot vote in precinct races other than for the precinct where they reside.)
County Republican Party Chairman De’Borah Deaz expressed thanks to County Election Administrator Lory Harle’s office for working “long, hard hours” on the voting box line matter, and Tefteller added “We have very good lawyers who led us through this.”
Rather than being on the ballot for the GOP and Democrats’ respective March 1 primary elections, the precinct chair races will be on the parties’ respective runoff election ballots May 24.
In contested precinct chair races involving more than two candidates, the one who gets the most votes wins, even if he or she does not draw more votes than the other candidates combined. (For many years, the overwhelming majority of candidates for precinct chair in Upshur County have been unopposed).
Deaz said Monday that 14 candidates–all unopposed so far–filed for GOP precinct chairmanships during the first of two filing periods, which ended Dec. 13. She said the changes in voting box lines will not require any of them to re-file.
County Democratic Chairman Winifred Jackson meantime said Monday she had refused to accept any precinct chair candidates’ applications during the initial filing period, lest the applicants’ precinct lines change.
The second filing period, which Deaz and Jackson agreed was required by the state’s new election integrity law, is Jan. 15-Feb. 12.
The GOP candidates to date include 10 incumbents and four newcomers, Deaz said.
The incumbent candidates and their precinct numbers so far include Lanette Crittenden, 1; Lewis Miller, 3; Deborah Hodge, 4; Jackie Reagh Oliver, 6; Tom Williams, 7; Charlie Pelezo, 8; John Melvin Dodd, 10; Micky Denton, 12; John Lee Ussery, 16; and Madaline Barber, 20.
Other candidates and their precinct numbers are Brenda Kelsey Beal, 11; Judy Dodson Crowder, 14; Carolyn Wade, 15; and Madison (Matt) Barrett, 17.
Barrett, the Upshur GOP’s parliamentarian, seeks the seat being vacated by Carl Byers, who is opposing Deaz for county chairman in the March 1 primary.