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County lawyer nixes Camp Gary voting talks

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER
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An issue that threatened to grow into a full-blown controversy was cut short on Monday morning when Caldwell County’s attorney lobbed a legal opinion into a hornet’s nest.

At the request of representatives of Gary Job Corps, which is implementing an initiative to get thei

r students involved in the electoral process, Caldwell County Commissioner Neto Madrigal brought forth a proposal last month to open an early voting location on the Job Corps campus. The polling location, it was thought, would save Gary students from having to be bussed into Lockhart or Martindale to cast their votes in the Nov. 2, 2010, general election.

When it was first proposed, the concept was met with both support and resistance, divided largely along party lines. Supporters said allowing the polling location would encourage Gary students to participate in the process, while detractors worried about several issues, including the impact of “transient voters” on local elections, and the fact that a location at Camp Gary would not be open to the average citizen.

The idea returned to the agenda of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court on Monday, before a standing-room-only gallery of both supporters and opponents.

Randolph Goodman, a spokesman for Gary Job Corps, introduced a pair of students who have been deputized to register voters, and ensured the public that he would do everything he could to see that his students had the chance to vote.

“I’m a veteran, and I know how important it is to be enfranchised,” Goodman said. “If the County decides to let us [open a polling location at Gary Job Corps], we’re going to arrange it so that any voter can come in the gate, go vote, and then leave the campus.”

Goodman suggested a poll could be installed in a gazebo near the entrance gate of the facility, where visitors could be monitored, but would be allowed to vote.

One of the opponents, Mark George, seized the opportunity after the students’ introduction to illustrate an earlier point about campaigning on the premises. George asked both students if they could name or had information about any of the candidates running in several county-wide elections this fall. Both admitted they did not.
Goodman answered the concern by committing to hold a candidate forum at Gary prior to the election, but his assurances fell short of being comforting to some.

“The main thing that bothers me is that these students are here for two years, but they maintain permanent residence at their home of record,” said Tom Bonn, an Army veteran who used his own experience as a template. “When I was in the military, I registered to vote in my home of record, and voted with an absentee ballot. Why are these students registering here, and not in their home of record, where they should be.”

Bonn’s comments drew fire from the gallery, and questions about whether college students should be allowed to vote where they attend school, as opposed to in their permanent homes, before Assistant District Attorney Ron Heggemeier brought the conversation to a close.

“I made some calls and did some research,” he said. “Because Gary is owned by the [Federal government], the law doesn’t allow us to put a polling location there, unless there is no other viable option. And because there are other options available in that precinct, we simply can’t [open a polling location at Gary Job Corps.]”

In brief news:
The commissioners discussed the possibility of instating an outdoor burning ban. Although they opted to leave the ban off, County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft reminded the public that, should danger arise, he can issue an executive order beginning such a ban, and have that order ratified by the Commissioners at a future meeting. As oppressive heat and dry conditions continue, the possibility of an outdoor burning ban becomes more and more likely.

The Court heard information on an air-quality survey of the Caldwell County Judicial Center, suggesting that the building may be in need of additional repairs or renovations.

The County paid bills in the amount of $79,604.81, which includes $13,147 for indigent legal defense.

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