Orange County Elections office working with LSCO to save money
As the Orange County Elections Office is gearing up for the upcoming election in November they, as they always do, discuss cost cutting measures. The office, created in 2005, is the hub of all election activity.
Current Elections Administrator Tina Barrow has been working in the elections department since 1997, which were previously handled in the County Clerk’s office.
Barrow holds the responsibility of not only all issues concerning the administering of elections but the budgeting to hold them properly. Born in Beaumont, Barrow has lived in Orange since 1980.
County Clerk, Karen Jo Vance, met recently with Barrow to discuss the elections, budget and other issues.
“We hire a lot of help starting on the Friday prior to the election,” Barrow said.
That hired help counts and separates early voting ballots, verifies signatures on those ballots, bundles supplies for Orange County’s 34 voting locations, their election judges and clerks and dozens of other tasks.
Hiring people is not only an expense but can sometimes be complicated. The pay isn’t much, but it’s more than minimum wage.
The complication comes in finding people who can work the odd hours that are reliable and dependable as well. In their meeting an idea struck Barrow. What if some of the local college students could volunteer their help as a part of a course credit or extra credit?
After a series of emails with a professor of history at Lamar State College-Orange, Max Daniels agreed this would be beneficial to both sides.
“The students will learn the voting process from the ground up, “ explained Barrow, “I so appreciate Mr. Daniels for working with us on this.”
Barrow estimated the plan to use Political Science and History class students as volunteers will save the county for this election somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000.
“We have seven students who have contacted me to participate,” explained Barrows when asked about the group she is assembling. She went on the say that for this particular election she would not need many more.
This means that for those students who are willing and hopeful to grab the extra credit Daniels has offered them, there are only a limited number of positions. The students will not only be trained for their duties, they will also take the Oath of Compensation.
Election time is serious business, even when the election may not garner the attention of a presidential election year.
“We follow the same process on all elections,” Barrow said. “We do use more help for bigger election years, so this one will be a good one to try this project on.
“We also have so many changes with electronic voting. Though the machines are very simple to use, they do have to be programmed,” said Barrow.
She admits that may be an area where the younger generation will excel. “Its $15,000 just for ballots, so you want people to show up and vote whether it’s a big election or a smaller local one.”
This is the quandary Barrow’s found herself in when looking at budget initially. This is considered a smaller election but must be handled no differently.
This November election will concern ten Orange County constitutional amendments and a separate liquor option election for the town of Vidor. The early voting ends the Friday prior to Tuesday elections and they voters are not required to go to specific voting places as they are on the day of the election. The students who volunteer their time will have to separate all of these ballots, verify the voter signature with the one on record for ballots mailed in, then place them into proper lock boxes for their accurate poll division when they will be counted at the end of the election night with the rest.
Some of the amendments deal with student loans, ad valorem taxation for surviving spouse of veterans or totally disabled vets, and school funds. They are much more complicated to understand than average amendments, but people still need to know and vote.
“You do what you can to get the word out but some people will still not know we are having an election,” smiled Barrow.
Still education the younger people about the process, saving the county money and possibly starting a program that will establish a new connection between Lamar-Orange and the county.