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2015-01-29

My View - Right to vote depends on residency

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Courier's series of articles concerning voter fraud in the City of Bandera elections stirred up a lot of anger on multiple sides of the issue. At the root of the situation seems to be a basic misunderstanding of the laws of Texas for elections.
I know it's hard for some to believe, but the Courier editorial staff doesn't much care who gets elected. We'll be happy to do articles about whichever politicians the people select.
We do however believe that the right to vote is a precious right and should be protected. Part of that protection has to do with making sure that voters are truly qualified to vote in a particular election.
A surprisingly large number of people apparently believe that one requirement allowing a person to vote is the ownership of property or the operation of a business within the jurisdiction covered by the election.
That is absolutely not the case.
Texas law is clear that the right to vote in a jurisdiction depends solely on residency within that jurisdiction.
The fact that you lived in Bandera for 50 years before moving to Wharton's Dock does not qualify you to continue voting in city elections.
The fact that you own or operate a business within the city limits does not qualify you to vote in a city election.
It is only residency within city limits that qualifies you to vote. Residency, of course, means "where you live."
We are all familiar with national candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, who had to "establish their residency requirements" before being able to run for office representing a particular jurisdiction. Clinton had to live in New York before she could run to be their senator. In like manner, a voter must also "establish (or prove) their residency" before voting.
If you want to vote in the city elections, you must provide documents to the voting registrar that prove you actually live within the city limits and have lived there for a certain period of time. For municipal elections in the state of Texas, a voter must be a resident for six months.
In the same manner, if you wanted to vote in the Medina School Board election, you would have to provide documentation that you will have resided within their jurisdiction for six months when you register to vote.
Without residency requirements, people from Louisiana could cross over the border and cast their ballots for Texas governor; people from the 24th Congressional District could get on a bus and go vote in the 18th district. And people who reside in Tarpley could vote in the Bandera City elections.
One could conceivably vote wherever and whenever one wanted to when enforcement of state law is lax.
Does that seem right to you?
It doesn't seem right to us.
If we are going to allow some business owners who are not residents to vote in city elections, then we need to get the word out that Bandera is no longer following the laws of the State of Texas and has expanded the requirements for voting. Then everyone who owns a business in the city can register and have their voice heard in the next city election. In addition, anyone who wanted to vote in a city election could buy a piece of property and qualify. I'd sell them a square inch of my lot!
Adding to the problem in Bandera city elections is an apparent lack of knowledge regarding what addresses are actually within the city limits, which also extended the right to vote to non-residents in the November election.
If the elections office spent the next eight months culling through the city election rolls, at 100 checks per month (a little over three per day), at least 800 voter registrations could be checked and verified. And in actuality, the job would not be that strenuous, since the entire population of Bandera City is somewhere around 800 people and some of those are not qualified to vote for other reasons, such as age, or have not bothered to register.
Below is the portion of state election law that applies:
ELECTION CODE
TITLE 2. VOTER QUALIFICATIONS AND REGISTRATION
CHAPTER 11. QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR VOTING
Sec. 11.001. ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE.
(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, to be eligible to vote in an election in this state, a person must:
(1) be a qualified voter as defined by Section 11.002 on the day the person offers to vote;
(2) be a RESIDENT of the territory covered [emphasis mine] by the election for the office or measure on which the person desires to vote; and
(3) satisfy all other requirements for voting prescribed by law for the particular election.
Note that the law DOES NOT offer property or business owners special dispensation that qualifies them to vote. There is no "grey area." To vote in a city election, you must be a RESIDENT of the city.