While a new election is expected to be called in Palmview, the city council has yet to meet to do so officially, leaving the cost of another election in question. The city’s previous contract with the Hidalgo County Elections Department, however, offers an idea.
The contract approved by the city council during its Sept. 26 meeting was for the estimated cost of $21,867.68, allowing for the county to administer the city’s November municipal elections and a runoff election if needed.
The price tag included the costs associated with the voting machines; electronic poll book which includes voter registration database; supplies such as combination forms, election judge kits, polling location maps, sample ballots and the “I Voted” stickers. Mail-in ballot services, advertisements, training and pay for the poll workers in addition to overtime pay for the elections staff, and pay for the ballot board as well as insurance and cell phones were also included.
The costs related to the voting machines made up $3,211 of the total. Those costs include ballot coding, ballot audio files, election media per polling location, touch voting machines, touch access voting machines, and the delivery and pick up fee.
Hilda Salinas, an analyst with the Hidalgo County Elections Department, said an estimate for a possible special election was not currently available as the department had not yet researched the possible cost and was still in early stages of discussions with the city.
However, she noted that poll workers would likely not have to go through training again.
Whether a special election will be called will likely be determined during an upcoming city council meeting on Dec. 18. But the Texas Secretary of State’s office made it clear in an email that it was the best route to take.
The email, sent to City Attorney Eric Flores on Monday, stated that the mayor’s race was not properly handled, according to Christina Worrell Adkins, legal director of the elections division of the secretary of state’s office.
Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal was the only candidate who filed to run for the office and was listed on the ballot as an unopposed candidate declared elected.
However, Worrell Adkins noted that because there were two contested Palmview city council races on the ballot, voters should have also been able to vote in the mayor’s race. The vacancy now exists because there was not a single vote cast for Villarreal to be elected.
How the error occurred has been a subject of a review currently being finalized by the city.
On Friday, city officials met with the elections department to discuss the specifics of what happened, according interim City Manager Leo Olivares.
Olivares said the two parties are still working together to identify the issue and come up with recommendations to make sure the “shortfalls” are addressed and remedied.