Happening at the Hospital!03/13/2018
Spring is upon us and that means it's time to gear up and start that Spring Cleaning we all love to do. Spring at CCH also means that it's time for our next election, and this time around it is our At-Large Precinct Election. Given that the individuals who previously handled the election process at the hospital for the Board had retired since the last precinct election, and in the spirit of updating and Spring Cleaning, we made a decision to audit the entire election process from beginning to end, and make certain that CCH was in compliance with all applicable laws and policies.
Just as one discovers that long lost item you forgot you had when looking in the back of the closet, CCH discovered requirements we didn't know pertained to us. As staffers began researching how elections were handled here in the past and asking questions of those individuals and then reconciling that information with the guidelines and regulations we received from the County and State officials, we discovered certain areas that required immediate adoption.
Through numerous conversations with the County, the Texas Secretary of State's Office (SOS), and CCH's own legal counsel, what we found was the following:
1. Applications and petitions, while both are part of the application process, are considered separately and each must stand on its own merit for all required items. Both the application and petition must clearly state the precinct in which the candidate is applying.
2. While voters may sign the petitions for multiple candidates, it is limited to one candidate per precinct. If a voter signs multiple candidates' petitions for a single precinct, only the first (earliest) counts and the other(s) are disqualified.
3. All elements of the state election laws must be followed in addition to the local district laws and hospital bylaws, even though not necessarily referenced, such as the requirement for living in the precinct/district for at least 6 months prior.
4. Even though it is an 'at large' election process, voters can only vote once per open precinct position. No longer will a voter be able to cast multiple votes for a single candidate (which wasn't supposedly appropriate prior to State election law changes in 1997 either).
5. Not knowing does not absolve any party of the responsibility of doing things correctly, even though it may be a painful process for all.
The oddities in the way that this type of election has been handled in the past coupled with the high number of calls that the Texas Secretary of State was receiving as CCH attempted to adhere to the letter of the law, prompted the SOS to convene a committee and review this election's entire process. CCH provided the SOS with all current documentation, applications, voter registration rolls, and petitions. We also submitted what documentation we could find of
prior elections. After over a week of deliberating, the SOS came back with their determinations, and those determinations resulted in the disqualification of 5 of the 8 candidates, including 2 sitting CCH Board Members.
We knew that these disqualifications would come as both a surprise and a disappointment to all of the candidates, because just as most people wouldn't want to lose due to a technicality, most people also wouldn't want to win due a technicality. The CCH Board was not pleased with having to disqualify anyone for this election. We even requested that we be allowed to proceed as we had in the past for this year's election. However, the SOS indicated that under no circumstances could we knowingly violate State law or deviate from the correct process.
Spring Cleaning comes from a desire to make things better for everyone involved, and it is an arduous, time-consuming process that requires perseverance and hard work. While the review we performed this year was difficult, it is going to result in a process that's cleaner, more efficient, more transparent, and in compliance with local and state law.