NEWS Mail in ballots on the rise By BARABARA FULENWIDER Even though early voting at polling places in Fort Bend County doesn’t start until Monday, April 28, a large number of folks 65 and over have voted early on a paper ballot and mailed it in. “Ballot by mail is very heavy for a May election due to a change in the statute. This is the ﬁrst year in which someone can apply for a ballot by mail and request it for all voting dates so it comes automatically with every election,” said John Oldham, Fort Bend County elections administrator. Oldham said this year his ofﬁce personnel mailed out 1,079 paper ballots to Missouri City’s older voters who requested them and 720 total to older Sugar Land voters. A year ago, he said, his ofﬁce mailed a total of 971 in the entire county. “Overall, we have four to ﬁve times as many ballots by mail sent out,” Oldham said. “It may skew the numbers a little bit in favor of people over 65. If you have 250 ballots returned it may increase the
participation rate among those over 65 relative to the rest of the population.” “We’ve not been ﬂooded for ballots by mail but we still have a lot more ballots out than we normally would. I think a 50 percent return rate will be good. We’ve not had a huge amount of interest in this election,” said Oldham, who added that his ofﬁce has not gotten many phone calls or inquiries regarding it. There are no polling places open in the county right now but there will be two weeks from Monday and they will be open for 10 days. “Early voting,” Oldham said, “is the biggest cost of the election. Even though Oldham’s ofﬁce is not “doing all the elections in the county,” he said, “Ours is centered around Fort Bend ISD and Stafford MSD. We will have 18 early voting sights throughout the county” but none in southwestern Fort Bend. More and more people are voting early and especially as the population ages. “We’ve had 70 percent of the total
Organ Donor Awareness Month at HMSL Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is honoring all organ donors and organ recipients during Organ Donor Awareness Month with green lighting on the front of the hospital building throughout the month of April. Organ Donor Awareness Month occurs every April as a way to encourage the public to become organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those people who have been given a second chance at life through organ donation. Every 18 minutes someone dies in the United States waiting for an organ. “We at Houston Methodist strongly believe in the gift of life and this is just a small way we can show our support for organ donation and transplantation,” said Chris Siebenaler, CEO at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “More than 120,000 Americans, including 13,000 Texans, are currently awaiting organs. More than 3,300 of those are in the Houston area,” said Dr. Ashish Saharia, transplant and general surgeon on staff at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “Any way we can bring awareness to the importance of organ donation is something we are happy to do.” In addition, tables will be set up at the hospital throughout the month that will allow the public to pick up materials and talk to experts to learn more about organ donation and transplantation. To sign up to become an organ donor, log on to donatelifetexas. org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/methodistslhosp and Facebook at facebook.com/methodistsugarland.
vote cast early in the past two presidential elections,” Oldham said. It’s a good thing because he said there’s no way “we could handle more than 70,000 people voting at the polls in one day. We certainly couldn’t handle 270,000. “To do that would cost three time what it does now. If Texas ever did away with early voting, Fort Bend County would have to spend $1.5 million just to add the equipment needed to double the number of polling locations, if we could ﬁnd them,” the elections administrator said. Right now, he said, there’s a big push on nationwide to eliminate voting in public schools because of the dangers it can pose to children. One of Oldham’s biggest problems now is ﬁnding polling places with adequate parking. “We currently use a mix of public and private polling places.” Voter turnout in 2009 was 4.4 percent countywide; in 2011 it was 6.4 percent; in 2012, 5.16 percent countywide, and in
APRIL 16, 2014 • INDEPENDENT • Page 3
Fort Bend Parents of Multiples’ garage sale
This is a professional event is put on by multiple moms groups in the Sugar Land area and has anything and everything for baby, toddler, young children, adults, as well as some electronics and household items on May 3 at Cross Fit Caveman, 4413 Bluebonnet Suite 2, South Kirkwood Road and Bluebonnet, Stafford, from 8 2013 only 3.72 percent of the a.m 11 a.m. those eligible to vote did so. Oldham reminds voters they Area attorneys are invited to the April 22, 2014 lunch meeting must have a photo identiﬁcaof the Katy Bar Association at 11:30 a.m. at Willowfork Country tion with them in order to vote. Club, 21055 Westheimer Parkway, Katy. The Bar’s guest speaker “So far we’ve had three elecis the John W. Kelly, Jr., on how to conduct a successful mediations since this law was passed tion. He currently serves as President of Fort Bend County Bar and we’ve only had six people Association, and was past president of the Katy Bar Association. who didn’t have a photo id with them. Last November there were three in the primary and three on election day,” he said. For God so loved the world that he gave A rumor that crops up every now and then is that paper ballots aren’t counted unless the election is close. Oldham said it isn’t true and that mailed in paper ballots are the “first votes counted. When we post election night early voting, all the returned ballots by mail are included.” He went on to explain that an early voting ballot board of between five to 13 people is named by the two major parties and the board verifies that “everything is correct on the carrier envelope and that the signatures match the application.”
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Missouri City Green to host Community Garage Sale April 26
There were many satisfied customers at the Fall Missouri City Green Garage Sale.
Texans Insurance & Financial Group, Inc 101 Southwestern Blvd, Ste 230 Sugar Land, TX 77478-3535 PH (281)277-7800 FAX (281)277-7801 firstname.lastname@example.org
Missouri City Green, in partnership with the Missouri City Parks & Recreation Department, will host the City’s Community-wide Spring Garage Sale on Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m to 1 p.m at the Civic Center Complex located at 1522 Texas Parkway in Missouri City. Come out to ﬁnd your hidden treasures! This is a free event for those wishing to browse and make purchases. Food will also be available for purchase throughout the event. Proceeds from the booth fees directly beneﬁt the Mayor’s The Fort Bend Voters League has organized a candidate forum Youth Commission and Missouri City Green, a non-proﬁt oron Sunday, April 27th for Fort Bend ISD aspirants. The forum ganization that seeks to foster and encourage local residents to will be held at the University of Sienna Branch Library at 8411 take responsibility in the community through recycling, planting Sienna Springs, in Missouri City. A meet and greet for Fort Bend native trees and plants and other earth-friendly activities. For questions or more information, log onto www.missouriciMunicipal candidates and ofﬁceholders will take place at 2 p.m. tygreen.org or email email@example.com. followed by the debate at 2:45 p.m.The event is free and open to the public. Other sponsoring groups of this candidate forum are EMERGE Southminster Presbyterian Church presents piano concert USA, Fort Bend Chinese American Voters League, Bangladesh Very accomplished pianist, Donald Doucet will present a concert Association, Houston, South Asian Chamber of Commerce, and performance of the complete “Italian Year” by Franz Liszt on April the Missouri City Chamber of Commerce. 25 at 7:30 pm. The church address is: 4200 Cartwright, located at The moderator is Rod White. the corner of Cartwright & Brightwater. This collection of seven The Fort Bend Voters League is a not-for-proﬁt voter education pieces by Liszt is a series of musical remembrances of art & literary group, organized in 2011 works which Liszt encountered in his travels through Italy in the For more information email Farha@windstream.net or call 1830’s. This is music of extreme virtuosity, emotional intensity & 832-567-9346. pure piano magic. No admission charge, public welcome.
Fort Bend Voters League
Academy From Page 1 academy, the discussion should focus on using the ﬂexibility offered by the legislature under HB 5 which lets the school district design the courses, Harrington said. He said the district should offer certiﬁcation and college ready programs. According to FBISD, “Academies are personalized, small learning communities that function within a larger high school with a mixture of career and academic classes offered to students. Enrollment of approximately 400 students is eventually anticipated for each academy. Students attending academies generally take more advanced courses in their areas of specialization and have the opportunity to earn college credit. High school academies are in digital media, global studies, math and science, international business & marketing, engineering and health sciences.” Answering another question, Burdine said he was running
for the ofﬁce because of his commitment to volunteerism and education. Keeping local control over education is important, Buridne said. Cherivirala said he wanted to ensure that children learned to their fullest potential, and that teachers were given adequate resources. Because of his experience in the ﬁnancial industry, he could spend tax dollars wisely and will be a good guardian of public money, he said. The likely ‘megabond’ issue and ﬁscal responsibility ﬁgured in the discussion. Allfrey faulted the previous board and administration for not keeping up with maintenance of school buildings. As news schools will be needed, Allfrey said the district should not bend to developers or special interests. George said he will be ﬁscally responsible. As a small businessman, he will not spend the money that he does not have. Real estate and infrastructure are important, he said. Harrington said the board is
currently lacking proper ﬁnancial information. The ﬁnancial package that the board gets in an Excel spreadsheets is deﬁcient and they are ripe for error, Harrington said. He said he would take the complicated ﬁnances and make them simple. Also, special interests will pull the board in every direction possible. The board should rip apart the data provided by the administration and scrutinize, he said. Burdine said with his experienced eyes, he will look at the bond proposal line by line. While he supported a longterm plan, he will not support every suggestion made by the consultants. Tossin said she would not have voted for the $18 million iPads, which was a waste. She also said she would support term limits for board members. Harrington too supported term limits, two to 4 terms. Special education and mental health issues are not the same and many with mental health issues are placed in special education, Tossin said.
“We are over-identifying kids and spending more money,” she said. Teachers need to be trained and costs could be contained if resources are brought in to the campuses, Tossin said. One of the questions raised was if the centralized truancy court was set up as a money making machine. Albright said the justices of the peace were overloaded with truancy cases and wanted relief. That is why a centralized court was set up and it was not for making money, he said. Fort Bend ISD has a sound, solid and concise truancy policy Albright said. Harrington said a lot of students were referred to truancy court and it lacked a personal touch. It needs to be cleaned up and a good program is needed, he said. Tossin said parental involvement is needed to address the truancy issue, which is a gateway crime. The district should move away from zero tolerance on truancy and deal with it on a case to case to basis.
(281)277-7800 Texans Insurance & Financial Group, Inc 101 Southwestern Blvd, Ste 230 Sugar Land, TX 77478-3535 firstname.lastname@example.org