News Roundup: Election Judges Can Carry Concealed Firearms Into Polling Places

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelAugust 30, 2018 7:28 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A group that advocates for voting rights is expressing concerns over a new, nonbinding opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Typically, guns are not allowed at polling places while people are casting ballots. But, earlier this week, Paxton said in most instances presiding election judges who are licensed to carry can bring their firearms.

Beth Stevens is the voting rights director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. She says that state officials are creating problems, rather than solving them.

“So instead of focusing on voter registration, ensuring that folks that are eligible to vote, actually get to have their voices heard and participate in our democracy, they’re creating a distraction and a non-issue,” Stevens says.

Stevens adds that if presiding election judges are carrying weapons it could intimidate voters.

“From our perspective, the intimidation factor, intimidating one person from showing up at a polling location because they’re worried the election judge is going to have a weapon is one person too many,” she says.

Paxton noted that election judges could be blocked from carrying firearms at polling places on certain university campuses, and on private property where guns are prohibited.

And while Paxton’s opinion is nonbinding – meaning it isn’t law – Stevens says it will still have an impact.

“We know from experience that other elected officials will take this as the word on high from the state,” Stevens says.

Paxton issued the opinion in response to a question from State Representative James White, an east Texas Republican. White said some election judges have expressed safety concerns working long hours in rural areas.

The former north Texas police officer convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Roy Oliver, who is white, shot and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards as he was leaving a party in April 2017 in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs. A Dallas County jury sentenced Oliver late Wednesday night and also ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson told The Dallas Morning News her team was hoping Oliver would get a longer sentence.

“However, we will never, never argue with the jury in terms of their verdict,” Johnson says.

Charmaine Edwards, who was Jordan’s stepmother, said she was also hoping Oliver would serve a longer prison term. According to KERA News, she said Oliver, “can actually see life again after 15 years. And that’s not enough because Jordan can’t see life again.”

Oliver’s defense team said it has already started the appeals process.

The Texas Sunset Commission overwhelmingly rejected a recommendation Wednesday to close driver’s license offices across the state that the Department of Public Safety considers “inefficient.”

Texas Representative Poncho Nevarez is on the commission.

“I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that, and I’ll just use this as an example, that an office in Presidio would be inefficient simply because there’s not many people in Presidio,” Nevarez says. “But we have to absolutely provide people in Presidio with the opportunity to get a driver’s license without having to drive 100 miles to get one.”

The Sunset Commission is a body of the Texas legislature that evaluates fellow state agencies.