November Elections Just Around the Corner for Houston County

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – The November 2022 midterms elections already cast a shadow over the national political scene. In Houston County, Mike McCreight and Kevin “KJ” Johnson seek to replace Justice of the Peace Clyde Black in Precinct One. 

The elections are set for Tuesday, Nov. 8. Keeping the records straight for the 13,000 voters in Houston County is a big job. Making sure ballots are correct, machines are checked and re-checked. Add to that the task of counting all those votes quickly and correctly election night. 

It’s a big job that Houston County Elections Administrator Cynthia Lum has learned to dominate along the way. When she started the job in 2017, there weren’t many manuals or instructions from the state. Lum has gotten the records cleaned up and processes established through experience and working with election administrators in others counties around the state. The state has passed new legislation that will mandate state-wide elections training for election administrators. 

“My job is to ensure that the elections are run fairly, impartially and accurately,” Lum explained. “My job is to register all the voters in Houston County and make sure the voter rolls are kept clean. To have the elections programmed through our vendor and make sure all of the machines are up and running – properly working and tested.”

Lum must make sure every step of the election process is secure and transparent – even after the voting is finished. 

“We must maintain a chain of custody for the machines and the votes to the best of our ability,” Lum said. “To make sure everyone has the right to vote and they’re comfortable voting.”

Even the people who help Lum carry out the work of elections in the county are not chosen by her.

“The party chairs send over lists that we use to hire people,” Lum explained. “We don’t just go out and hire whoever we want. The party chairs tell us who to choose from.”

Voting numbers in Houston County are a source of pride for Lum, and so should they be for all of us. While the number will go higher in presidential elections, essentially everyone that should be registered is registered, although not everyone votes in every election. 

“It depends on the election. Do they have a vested interest or not?” Lum noted. “Or are they a person who votes in every single election? 2020 was a high turnout election. In November, we had about 79% of registered voters turn up – which was fantastic. Normally we get less than 10%.”

One major change in Texas elections this year regards elections where there is only one candidate. The state legislature changed the law which means uncontested elections will appear on the ballots, but voters will not be able to cast a vote in those elections. Many candidates in non-contested elections could still use the numbers to gage support among voters. This year they will not have voting numbers. 

Elections work is a meticulous, arduous and time consuming job. It can be thankless at times – people never notice when everything goes right. Lum takes her role very seriously. This is Houston County’s opportunity to shape local, state and national elections. 

“I love it,” Lum said. “I have a mindset for details. So just to finish an election makes me feel good. I know it was done right. It doesn’t matter to me who wins. My job is impartial. As long as I know there were no errors – and if there were – they were documented. We hide nothing here.”

Much has been said nationally about integrity in our elections. Lum realizes there will always be misinformation, special interest groups and conspiracy theories. No matter what may go on in the elections in other states, Lum gives Houston County a high grade when it comes to trust in our election processes. 

“98.9% – nothing is perfect,” Lum concluded. “There can be human error in anything you do. Our checks and balances are such that every ballot is accounted for. Every ballot. Every voter. I have not been in any election in this county that I did not feel comfortable with our results. Where I don’t think they are accurate.”

If you are new to the county or not sure about your voter status, you have until Oct. 11 to get registered and ready to vote. You can visit www.votetexas.gov and fill out your information to see your status. 

The Houston County Election Administration Office is located in downtown Crockett in the County Annex building. For more infiormaton, call 936-544-3255. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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