County supports Election Administrator’s appointments despite challenge

Lupe Torres, elections administrator for Medina County, addresses the commissioner court on Sept. 8 with his recommendations for a central counting station manager and a tabulation supervision for the November elections.

By Anton Riecher
Medina County Commissioners gave their full support to elections administrator Lupe Torres in his recommendations for two key positions in tabulating ballots this November, despite a challenge from county GOP chair Julie Clark.
Commissioners voted to name Torres as central counting station manager and Lina Perez as tabulation supervisor.
“The manager is basically in charge of the overall process,” Torres said. “When we get all the media back from the polling locations we tabulate the results.”
Clark opposed Torres being named to the position, citing state election law that prohibits anyone but a registered voter in the county from serving.
However, Torres noted that the election code includes an exception that permits employees of the authority establishing the station to serve. That interpretation of the law was supported by first assistant district attorney Julie Solis, on hand for the meeting.
“If (Clark) is referring to me as not being a registered voter here that is correct,” Torres said. “But I am an employee.”
As for Clark’s charge that both Torres and Perez are Democrats, the solidly Republican commissioners’ court voted in support of the election administrator’s recommendation.
“He does a good job,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre said.
Torres noted that the county election board appoints a judge and alternate from each party to observe the tabulation process first hand.
Earlier in the meeting, Clark once again urged the county to support a “declaration of invasion” supported by some other Texas counties and elected officials that cites the U.S. Constitution as granting states the power to expel migrants cross the border in event of invasion.
“The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, is calling on Gov. (Greg) Abbott to declare the crisis on the southern border as an invasion,” Clark said.
County Judge Chris Schuchart has stood firm in his opposition to the legal wording of the declaration. The county commissioners approved a reworded “proclamation” that excluded the word “invasion.”
Schuchart was not present for the Sept. 8 commissioners meeting.
Clark challenged the commissioners to override the county judge’s objections and approve the measure.
“You took an oath of office,” Clark said. “Do you remember the oath you took? You said ‘I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office and I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.’”
Also on hand for the meeting was Sandy Young, county Democratic chair. She urged election participation by all parties. But as to allegations of voter fraud made by one declaration supporter, Young said she was unaware of any such fraud proven locally in the last two election cycles.
Ed Sonnen of Castroville spoke briefly in opposition to the “invasion” declaration.
“This is not an invasion,” Sonnen said. “These are human beings. They breathe like we do. If Jesus Christ were standing here right now I just believe in my heart that before they go through the Pearly Gates he is not going to ask ‘Are you legal or illegal?’”
In other action, the commissioners approved a financial report by County Treasurer Debbie Southwell for the period from July to October showing total combined funds of $33.5 million and total debt of $26.9 million.
In review of subdivision development, Commissioner Sittre took issue with granting preliminary approval of 10 lots in the Sandoval Subdivision, located on County Road 5715 north of Natalia and west of Lytle. All 10 lots were platted with entrances off the main county road.
“I have real issues with that even though it is within the rules and regulations,” Sittre said. “It is a traffic nightmare.”
Action on final approval of Oak Meadows subdivision in Precinct 4 off CR 7755 drew a negative response from a concerned citizen who said the subdivision was platted in such a way as to avoid the requirement of a fire suppression station.
“We’re stacking subdivisions in there, getting farther and farther away from any real water source,” the unidentified speaker told commissioners. “If we continue to do this we’re going to have real problems.”
Sittre said he agreed “100 percent.” However, the county lacks ordinance or zoning powers that would give it authority in the matter.
“With the rules we’ve got and the state fire codes there is nothing we can do,” Sittre said.
The commissioners set Sept. 22 as the date for official action on the proposed Medina County tax rate. The general fund rate dropped from $.23688 per $100 valuation to $.23661. The debt service rate is dropping from $.0624 to $.0552 and the road and bridge rate is being reduced from $.0911 to $.083.
Dates for public hearings on the proposed tax rates will be set on that date.