Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Jim Wells County Correspondent

Jim Wells County Commissioners received notice on Friday that the cities of Ben Bolt and Premont are scored on the highest level of drought conditions, with a Keetch-Byram Drought Index score of 700-800. This along with the elevated drought conditions throughout the rest of the county, led to the decision to continue with the total burn ban in Jim Wells County.

The lack of any noticeable rainfall and persistent dry conditions led to the index designation. As per the total burn ban, no burning is allowed in the unincorporated areas of Jim Wells County. With this ban in place, there are no exemptions available for agricultural burning. The total burn ban will come back before the court for reconsideration on Monday, April 14.

In other county business, Elections Administrator Pearlie Jo Valadez presented the early voting and election day voting for the Run-off election. The choice in voting locations, Valadez said, was based on experienced recommendations provided by Jim Wells County Clerk Ruben Sandoval. Commissioners approved the standard early voting locations of the JWC Courthouse, Orange Grove City Hall and Premont City Hall. Early voting will begin on Monday, March 31 and last until Friday, April 4.

Where commissioners had concerns was with the Run-off Election Day locations for April 8. Those locations were consolidated for this election, and did not include a location at Mary R. Garcia Elementary, which is where 1,076 voters in Precinct 10 voted in the Primary Election. Commissioner Ventura Garcia was adamant in his objection to the fact that no location was in place for the convenience of those voters. He said the 16 mile trip would be too much for some voters. On Apr. 8, the only location for those voters will be Ben Bolt Palito Blanco Middle School.

Commissioners Zenaida Sanchez, Oswald Alanis and Javier Garcia all voiced their problems with that situation. “”I think we’re expecting too much from our Prct. 10 voters,” Garcia said.

“You’re going to have a low voter turnout as it is, with only one local race on the ballot, then have voters drive 16 miles on the Tuesday of the election. They’re not going to do it.”

Valadez pointed out that the 22 voting machines used during the primary could not be tampered with or adjusted, and that the five other machines have already been programmed for these run-off election locations and could not be switched at this late date to include a location at Mary R. Garcia Elementary. She said the ballots came in on Friday, and that over 2,300 of them had to be sent out by mail from her office between now and the beginning of next week, an effort that will take much of the office’s attention.

Valadez said the location at Ben Bolt Middle School for the three consolidated precincts in that area was pretty fair, considering that over 900 voters in the Primary election were from the Ben Bolt and Plaito Blanco area.

A compromise was finally found, as commissioners made the motion to have the polling locations stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the run-off election, to allow those voters who commissioners said may feel disenfranchised an opportunity to make it to the polls either before or after work. Valadez said that her office, as usual, will also stay open through the lunch hour during the run-off election.