Friday, December 21, 2012

Round Rock Push Poll Backfires

Political activists are quite familiar with 'push polls' in which a question is asked in such a way so as to 'push' a particular point of view.  After pushing an answer, the pollster happily trots out the results to support the chosen narrative.  But every once in awhile the public gets informed and the 'push' attempt backfires. 

It is so blatantly obvious that the newspaper's question is designed to skew votes against Romere, (and doesn't even mention the issue at stake!)  Shameless, but happily the people rejected the 'push' this time. 

And the print media wonders why they have lost the public trust.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dismantling Democracy in Public Ed

I'm afraid I've been negligent in posting my newspaper columns on this blog site, and have missed several of the most recent.  Here is my "All In Perspective" column from the week of December 12.  "All In Perspective" currently runs in the Georgetown Advocate, Hill Country News, and Jarrell Star Ledger print newspapers.  

Americans have long believed that providing education is essential to a successful society. The Constitution leaves education to state and local governments, and typically public school administrators answer to parents and voters via the democratic process. Now, however, it seems there is a determined effort to dismantle voter control of public schools.

Control of curriculum content has been very much in the news in Texas for several years now. Elected State Board of Education members review and approve content for public school textbooks, and work to ensure that our values are reflected in the curriculum. In response, many left-wing advocates have called for curtailing SBOE powers or even abolishing the SBOE altogether.

Now, however, the political Left is working to circumvent SBOE curriculum oversight via a program called CSCOPE. Created by educrats at Texas’ enigmatic Education Service Centers, CSCOPE is not an acronym; apparently the term has no meaning whatsoever. CSCOPE is presented not as ‘curriculum’ per se, but a “curriculum management system,” and therefore does not require SBOE review. Furthermore, the Texas Attorney General has stated that while CSCOPE is subject to the Public Information Act, it is a copyrighted product, and public review would give competitors an unfair advantage. (Never mind the ‘advantage’ wielded by a government entity creating and selling product to school districts.) Teachers must sign contracts preventing them from sharing CSCOPE content, and parents and taxpayers have been denied the right to review elements of the program now used in more than 70% of Texas school districts.

Last month the Texas SBOE did hold hearings on CSCOPE that included testimony from numerous teachers and parents concerned about the content and usability of the CSCOPE program, but it is unclear as to what state agency has jurisdiction. While CSCOPE may very well have educational merit, as implemented the program severely limits public scrutiny of curriculum content.

Voter control over public school districts is also being limited from within the districts themselves. Although voters in each community elect a board of trustees to govern the local school district, school superintendents have been pushing rules to limit trustee authority. In the Round Rock ISD, elected trustees are not permitted to visit schools without the superintendent’s permission and are not allowed to conduct investigations into school district matters. Earlier this year, the RRISD also implemented a new rule requiring that a majority of the seven board members agree before even taking up an issue for discussion. Since the RRISD superintendent sets board meeting agendas, an unelected bureaucrat wields disproportionate power over the elected board.

Even more disturbing were comments made regarding public information and transparency at a recent Round Rock School Board meeting. After denying an elected trustee data regarding attendance, RRISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez stated that he had the right to determine what district information was given to the school board. (The trustee was also censured for pursuing the question.) Chavez’ attitude may come as a shock to voters and parents who thought that the school superintendent was the employee of the voters via the trustees. Voters should be aware, however, that newly elected trustees are sent to ‘training’ by the Texas Association of School Boards, where they are admonished to always defer to the superintendent.

There is a prevailing attitude amongst education ‘elites’ that they alone know what is best for children, and that they must work to disentangle education from voter and parental influence. Unfortunately, these elites are ever finding new and creative ways to manipulate education and evade scrutiny. Parents and taxpayers should be paying very close attention to the activities of educrats at both the state and local level.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Powerful Voices Speak at Round Rock School Board Meeting: Updated 12/15

While I was unable to attend last night's Round Rock ISD board meeting, one nationally-known activist did:  Texas Americans For Prosperity Director Peggy Venable.  Venable presented an open letter to the Round Rock School Board on behalf of Americans For Prosperity, in which she reminds the trustees that they work for the taxpayers and citizens and have no right to censure elected officials with whom they disagree. 

She also noted that similar behavior on the part of the El Paso ISD Superintendent prevented that board from gaining information about illegal activities that eventually led to jail time for Superintendent Garcia.  Venable correctly stated that public records belong to everyone, including elected members of the board.

Regarding the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC,) it seems the Superintendent finally got around to reading the state's education law code and created a new presentation that includes detailed information.  The new document is in stark contrast with the sloppy and unprofessional work submitted by Superintendent Jesus Chavez' administration for 2011-2012.  Of course this battle is far from over; Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards' group, "Texas Freedom Network," has been trying to use local SHAC's to impose radically leftist sex education programs in Texas schools.  Watch for the RRISD Superintendent and the liberal-progressive members of the school board to try to stack the district's SHAC with TFN activists.

If you are not too busy with those Christmas preparations and would like to send a note of support to Peggy Venable and the two board members who are standing up for transparency in government, here is their contact information:

Texas AFP Director Peggy Venable:  Comment on her Open Letter here.
RRISD Elected Trustee Terri Romere:
RRISD Elected Trustee Pauline Law:

Update:  It seems I missed another powerful message that was delivered to the RRISD Board of Trustees on December 13.  A Round Rock citizen by the name of Scott Campbell addressed the board and circulated a copy of his comments.  Campbell's well-written letter reminds me of the scare-mongering perpetuated by RRISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez during the 2011 Legislative session, and the erroneous information he put forth.  Regarding recent board conduct, Mr. Campbell notes that five board of trustee members "have fallen short" of our trust.

Scott Campbell's letter to the RRISD Board of Trustees.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees.

Our message this evening is about "trust", the root of the word "trustee", the trust we as parents and community members placed in you when electing you to make decisions maximizing our children's quality of education while optimizing the use of funds financed by the taxes we pay. Recent decisions by five board of trustee members have fallen short of this trust.

The board member these board members have censured on multiple occasions represents a minority viewpoint within the board of trustees. The legitimate concerns she raises on behalf of the community stakeholders are being marginalized. She asks questions and digs deeper for data in the interest of making informed decisions. This due diligence is met by resistance from other board members with statements such asI/we don't or can't ask those types of questions". While community input is solicited, these board members generally vote with the administration's recommendation.

During the 2011state legislative session, as the state budget proposal was becoming clearer, an error in calculating the remaining RRISD budget impact, including the benefit of $7m additional federal funding, forecasted a $33m deficit rather than a $13m deficit, a $20m error. The board approved a tentative action allocating $15m from the available fund balance to reduce the $33m deficit, while continuing to communicate fear and anxiety to the employees, students and parents. I brought this error to the attention of the board president and superintendent. Rather than examine the numbers more closely, the board president's only response was that the state hadn't finalized the budget. Ms. Occhiuzzi called me at the superintendent's request and after I explained the error, she had Mr. Flores call me who confirmed the error in the district calculations. That day, the incorrect information was pulled from the district website, thereby reducing stakeholder anxiety.  At the time the board of trustees acted on this data, a basic ''gut check" should have exposed the magnitude of the error. In the course of this process, I contacted Ms. Romere. She took the time to understand the data in the interest of making informed future decisions.

We further know that incorrect data was presented during the boundary alignment process and that the recent Student Health Advisory Committee was not formed according to state education law. The Student Health Advisory Committee is only one example where the RRISD Board of Trustees and persons at various levels in the administration are unaware of state and federal law that should be guiding the decision process.

Data is "hard". This is why it is incumbent on each board member to ask questions to ensure they are    making informed decisions based on correct information.  

The recent censure of Ms. Romere resulted from her quest to ensure valid data. Based on data provided after the August vote allocating $25m for the Success High School, I calculated the cost per student to be 2-3 times that of the recently built Cedar Ridge High School. With more recent data, the cost per student appears to be on the order of 4-5 times. While we believe it is critically important to meet the education needs of the Success students, a more affordable option meeting these education needs would be  to allocate funding from this $25m to complete the final phase of Round Rock High School without the need for an additional bond election; and rather than tearing down building 100, remodel this facility to house the Success program. This will save taxpayers millions of dollars. Thus, Ms. Romere's request for more accurate data was justified. I have requested analysis of this approach from Mr. Albers and Dr. Chavez. I first shared this approach with Dr. Chavez at the August community meeting with the superintendent and more recently during the December community meeting with the superintendent.

In closing, we ask the five board members who represent a majority on the board to reevaluate their actions and ensure they are acting with the 11trust" placed in them by their stakeholders starting with a reevaluation of the plan for the Success High School, including community input.

Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Round Rock School Board Meeting December 13: Chock Full of Fun!

For those who have been following the many "interesting" issues surrounding the Round Rock School District, you might consider attending the December 13 Board meeting scheduled for 7 P.M. at the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall.

According to the posted agenda, during the open session the Board will be discussing the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).  Last month the Superintendent acknowledged that his administration had not followed state law in conducting the 2011-2012 SHAC, so now the Board must reformulate the council.  It will be interesting to see if they re-appoint Mr. Lynn Williams, the gentleman who called attention to the improper proceedings of last year's SHAC.

Also listed on the agenda is a Superintendent's report on "School Vouchers/School Choice."  In November, the administration invited the anti-choice group "Raise Your Hand Texas" to present a 'workshop' to the trustees, but as of yet the board has not heard from both sides of the issue.  It appears that the Superintendent is pushing the board to take an official stance on legislative issues.  If they do so, Superintendent Chavez will be free to lobby the State Legislature during the 2013 session.  (And we thought we paid him over $300,000 per year to run the school district.)

Finally, while the $25 million campus for drop-out students is not on the agenda, the Bond 2013 Study Decision is listed as an "Action Item."  Although the district is very much in need of elementary and middle schools, the board spent some $74 million on pet projects they knew voters would not approve.  Now, however, the RRISD can plead poverty and convince voters to approve new bond debt and tax increases.  Fitch reports that RRISD debt is already "Above Average" at $703 million, but this seems to be just fine with Fitch and our government culture of borrow and spend.(Supposedly RRISD isn't anything like Leander ISD with $1.3 billion in debt and a CAB Fiasco in the works.  Time will tell.)

Regarding the Success High School program for drop-out students, the district continues to maintain secrecy and only point to 'enrollment' numbers.  Voters should be aware, however, that students only need to show up for one day to be considered 'enrolled.'  Whether or not these students actually attend the program is another matter altogether.  As Trustee Romere discovered last month, average daily attendance hovers around 40 students per day.  At $25 million, taxpayers are spending $625,000 per student just to build the campus, never mind the maintenance and operation costs that will come after completion. 

Considering all of these issues, one finds it very difficult to trust the RRISD with such ample financial resources and/or the education of the majority of the community's children.  (Remember, RRISD academic rating has fallen from "Recognized" to "Acceptable," and now has several schools rated "Academically Unacceptable.")

Taxpayers and parents should be asking this board and administration for transparency and honesty.  The citizens of the community are entitled to the truth, and perhaps we need to be a little more vocal in asking questions.

If you wish to contact your elected board members, please strive to be courteous and respectful.  

Pauline Law:

Brian Sellers:
Diane Cox:
Catherine Hanna:
Chad Chadwell:
Glen Colby:
Terri Romere:

Friday, November 30, 2012

RRISD Spending Your Tax Dollars To Lobby Against Education Reform?

On November 27, the Round Rock ISD Administration hosted a Board "workshop" designed to turn Trustees against parental choices in education.  The workshop materials were provided by 'Raise Your Hand Texas', the anti-school choice group founded by Charles Butt (who advocates for other Left-wing issues )

Although the stated goals of the workshop presentation are to equip listeners with "information" to "educate parents and community leaders," only the RYHT agenda was presented.  No word on whether the district will allow the Trustees to hear both sides of this issue. 

The workshop presentation includes the usual scare tactics about allowing parents to choose schools, and omits important data about the various proposals.  For example, RYHT does not mention that the Taxpayer Savings Grant proposal allows school districts to keep a portion of funds for students who volunteer for the grants.  So districts would have fewer students and a net increase of approximately $473 in per pupil spending.

The RYHT goes on to bash Tax Credit Scholarships and "School of Last Resort" programs, the latter being the Texas Families First proposal to allow students to escape failing and dangerous schools.   They express no sympathy for students stuck in unacceptable schools, only imply that the public education monopoly just needs more money.   

This attack on parental choice in education is just a follow up to Superintendent Chavez' inappropriate comments at a September 2012 PTA Luncheon.  There he not only took it upon himself to speak for the district on legislative issues not yet approved by the Board, but also stated that he had recently met with Texas Senator-elect Charles Schwertner, and that he wanted everyone to "understand who (they had) elected to state office."*

Apparently Superintendent Chavez believes that if parents are given a choice there will be a mass exodus from his school district, and thus he is quite determined to steer the board toward a predetermined policy stance.  

If it is in fact the elected trustees who are running this school district, perhaps they should invite in experts to present a balanced view of these education reform issues.  There are expert advocates available from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and The Justice Foundation who would be more than happy to make a presentation.

If you think it would be more appropriate for the board to hear both sides of this issue, please send a courteous and respectful request stating so.

Pauline Law:
Brian Sellers:
Diane Cox:
Catherine Hanna:
Chad Chadwell:
Glen Colby:
Terri Romere:

 *I have been allowed to listen to a recording of Chavez' comments that day, but since PTA officials have issued thinly veiled legal threats to the owner of that recording, I cannot share.  Four other eyewitnesses have also confirmed these comments to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RRISD Tries to Silence Whistle Blowers?

At the Tuesday, November 27 meeting of the Round Rock ISD Board, 5 of 7 members voted to censure Trustee Terri Romere, apparently for asking too many questions. 

It seems that Terri Romere has been asking Superintendent Jesus Chavez to provide attendance data for the RRISD “Success High School” program for at-risk students. Success High School plans have been much in the news since the RRISD Board voted to spend $25 million from the general fund to construct an entirely new campus for the program. Taxpayers have questioned the fiscal soundness of the decision when the district is in dire need of new middle and elementary schools. At issue is how many students will attend the $25 million campus?

When Trustee Terri Romere initially requested the attendance data from the Superintendent, he refused to comply.  She then asked RRISD Board President Chad Chadwell for the data, who told her that even though she was an elected official, she would have to file (and pay for) an open records request. Ms. Romere did as Chadwell suggested and filed the request. In the meantime, someone from within the district anonymously left copies of RRISD documents on Romere’s doorstep containing the relevant data, which Romere then showed to Superintendent Chavez on November 15.  (Chavez had been claiming the documentation did not exist.)

The documents revealed that daily attendance at the Success High School program ran between 37 and 43 students per day. This is very much at odds with RRISD Administration's statements suggesting the new campus would serve more than 300 students.

Rather than address the very disturbing revelation that the Superintendent had pushed the board to spend $25 million in precious education dollars for a facility that would serve an average of 40 students per day, some board members decided to “kill the messenger.” In an obviously prepared statement, trustee Glen Colby accused Romere of conducting her own investigation, violating procedures, and “violating the Superintendent’s contract.” (Huh?) Colby, et al, claim that no one would have given Romere those documents unless she had ‘inappropriately’ asked for them- never mind that the topic has been much discussed since May 2012 and has prompted numerous letters to the editors of local newspapers.  Romere maintained her innocence and continued to ask the single question, "What is the daily attendance at Success High School?"

This whole new RRISD kangaroo court seems to be an attempt to distract the public from some very disturbing developments within the school district. Not only did the Board vote to stifle voter influence over the governance of the district last August, but during Tuesday’s proceedings the RRISD Superintendent stated that he had the right to decide what information the elected trustees could have about the district. And some of us were under the impression that public schools were governed by a local, democratic process! We elect trustees to the school board, and the superintendent should serve the voters via the trustees. Somehow, in the RRISD, we seem to have an unelected king running local public ed.

Just wondering out loud here: considering Superintendent Chavez’ peculiar statement during the witch hunt censure proceeding, is he refusing to comply with Terri Romere’s open records requests? If so, that is a clear violation of the Public Information Act. The Williamson County Attorney’s office has already admonished the ISD once this year, and just two weeks ago Superintendent Chavez admitted that they probably had not followed the law regarding the School Health Advisory Council. But perhaps there are more serious violations taking place here?

Which begs the question: what is the RRISD trying to hide?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RRISD Board to Take Up Sex Ed on Thursday UPDATED: District Drops Discussion...For Now

According to the posted agenda for the November 15 meeting, the Round Rock ISD board will include the district's sex education curriculum as a "Discussion Item."  (As opposed to an "Action Item.")  The agenda also includes a 20-minute public communications period, but only for "items not on the agenda."  I did make a few inquiries yesterday, and was told that the public would be able to comment on the proposed sex education curriculum changes at "some point" during the meeting. 

It appears the only opportunity parents will have to voice any concerns or opinions will be at the November 15 meeting.  Despite the marked importance of this topic, the RRISD has made little effort to include parents or invite input.  The proposed changes are allegedly the result of a formal recommendation from the RRISD SHAC (School Health Advisory Council,) but scant information has been made available on the composition or activities of the SHAC.  (Even though Texas Education Code requires a "detailed explanation of the council's activities.) Furthermore, according to one SHAC member, it is possible that neither the creation nor the proceedings of the RRISD SHAC are in compliance with state law.

Sadly, my guess is that moving the RRISD sex education curriculum towards a 'comprehensive' program was a forgone conclusion from the beginning.  The education establishment has long taken the elitist view that they alone know what's best for children, even in the area of sex education.

There are those who really believe that condoms allow 'safe sex,' (even though they do not prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases like HPV and Herpes, and are unreliable for preventing pregnancy.)  The argument is that kids, being just biological animals, are going to "do it anyway," and so we need to make it easy and 'safe.'  Unfortunately, our culture is engaged in a hyper-sexualization of children from a very early age.  (Just take a look at the 'prosti-toddler' wear available for your little girls at the local department store.)  Teaching kids 'safe sex' is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

If you would like to provide input to the Round Rock Independent School District on the direction of the sex education curriculum, I suggest that you attend the November 15 meeting.  (7:00 PM at the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall, 300 Lake Creek Drive.)  I also strongly encourage you to email or call your elected school board members.

Please remember to be courteous and respectful in communicating any concerns.

UPDATE:  Late yesterday afternoon, the Round Rock Independent School District sent out an E-newsletter which casually included the following:

At the Nov. 15 Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the district will pull the discussion item on the "Sex Education Curriculum and Implementation Plan." District officials learned recently that the process used to form the district's School Health Advisory Council may not have followed proper procedures and policies. The community is encouraged to still attend and sign up to speak at tonight's 7 p.m. Board Meeting located at the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall, 300 Lake Creek Drive, Round Rock, TX 78681. In the future, community members will be given additional opportunities to speak on this topic...

The full statement may be read on the RRISD website here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wins and Losses

Good news:  Republicans in Williamson County won every race.  Congratulations are in order for State Rep-elects Tony Dale and Marsha Farney, State Rep Larry Gonzales, and our new State Senator Charles Schwertner.

Also in the good news column are wins for Tom Maynard (State Board of Education, District 10) and the four Republicans elected and/or reelected to the Third Court of Appeals:  Bob Pemberton, Jeff Rose, David Puryear, and Scott Field.

In the Round Rock School Board races the results were mixed:  Pauline Law won handily, but Tere McCann lost to Chad Chadwell.  Both Law and Chadwell were first in ballot order, and both have good "candidate names."  Considering that most likely voters went into the polls to vote for president without much knowledge about the local races, those factors probably played the most significant role in the ISD campaigns.

In the ACC races, winners were Barbara Mink and Allan Kaplan, although Libertarian candidate Caldwell actually won the vote in Williamson County.  As I've pointed out previously, the layout of the ACC district effectively neutralizes the voice of Williamson County and other more conservative areas. 

Sadly, a great Texas Congressman, Quico Canseco, lost to Democrat Pete Gallego, and of course we are looking at four more dark years of Barack Obama.   I can't be angry, however; I know full well that Obama and every other politician will go the way of Ozymandias, and in the end the Creator will have the last say.

In the meantime, I'll be praying for my country, for my enemies, and for my beloved family and friends.  


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wilco Early Voting Results

The Williamson County Elections Department has posted Early Voting totals.  Keep in mind that totals can shift significantly once all the votes are counted, but often EV totals are pretty good indicators.

Here's a few snapshots:

House District 136:

Tony Dale:  55.40%
Matt Stillwell:  39.86%
Matt Whittington:  4.74%

Round Rock ISD will include votes from both Travis and Williamson County, so don't get too worked up here.

Round Rock ISD, Place 2:

Williamson County:  Tere McCann:  45.13%
                                  Chad Chadwell:  54.87%
Travis County:          McCann: 43.9%
                                  Chadwell: 56.10%

Round Rock ISD, Place 7:

Williamson County:  Pauline Law:  65.56%
                                  Eric Pav:  34.44%

Travis County:          Pauline Law: 62.69%
                                  Eric Pav: 37.31%

Other Early Vote leaders in Williamson County include Tom Maynard, Jana Duty, and Daniel Caldwell (ACC). 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day 2012

Well, tomorrow is the big day!  Remember that in order to vote on Election Day, you must go to your assigned precinct polling location.

Find your precinct location in Williamson County here.

Find your precinct location in Travis County here.

For other Texas counties, check the Secretary of State website here.

Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm, but give yourself plenty of time.

As always, political campaigns get pretty heated in the final days; tempers flare and sometimes folks say and do some rather shocking things.  Remember to keep things in perspective and always, always pray for your enemies. 

If it's all getting to you, I suggest you read Erik Erickson's 50,000 Feet Looking Down.  (H/T Michele Samuelson at Blue Dot Blues.)


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bias Alert: Local Newspapers To Readers: "Hey, Don't Be Quoting Our Quotes!"

Apparently our local media doesn't like it when Conservatives quote them verbatim.

In an October 17, 2012 story, the Round Rock Leader newspaper quoted school board president Chad Chadwell as saying:
"I would rather risk making a few students and teachers feel uncomfortable and show them condom use and prevent some teen pregnancies..."
 This morning the same paper has a retraction that states:  "Chadwell did not say the district's sex education curriculum should show students condom use."

This begs some interesting questions:  Why did the Round Rock Leader report the statement as an exact quote if it wasn't true?  Does the Leader just make up quotes that sound good?  So what did Chadwell say?  And why are they so upset that readers believed what they wrote and used it? 

Can we trust anything printed in the Round Rock Leader?

In addition, the Round Rock Leader's parent newspaper, the Austin American Statesman reports that:
On Oct. 20, 2012, the Statesman published a summary of the Leader story stating Hanna and Chadwell had said they supported showing students how to effectively use a condom.
Ironically, even thought both the Round Rock Leader and the AAS have reported these statements, both have condemned conservative Tere McCann for using these quotes!  Oddly enough, the Statesman even notes that:
In reaction, Chadwell emailed a statement to reporters that does not directly contradict McCann’s description of his remarks.
So did Chadwell support condom demonstrations or not?  And why is the local media covering for him?  And now, despite all of these fine stories put out by our local newspapers, the same newspapers are claiming anyone who quotes them is lying?  Wow, I'd say Orwell is alive and well.

I guess this is just more evidence that the Main Stream Media cannot be trusted.  Ever.

As Bernard Goldberg wrote:
With such a glaring lack of integrity that we witness from the news outlets each and every day, it’s sometimes hard to hold out hope that things will ever change for the better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Vote the Bible" T-Shirt is Too Offensive? Updated

Just received this press release from Texas Values.  Apparently a voter in Williamson County could not wear her "Vote the Bible" shirt because it "may be offensive to some people."  Now having worked as an election judge myself, I know that election workers cannot allow any campaigning inside the polling site, and I occasionally had to ask folks to change t-shirts that mentioned a candidate.  But according to this story, the woman's t-shirt wasn't deemed electioneering, just offensive to those who don't believe in the First Amendment.

“Vote the Bible” T-Shirt Banned In A Texas County, Called “Offensive”

Texas Values Assists Intimidated Voter Forced to Cover Up Her Religious T-Shirt Before Voting

Austin, TX, October 31, 2012--During early voting last week, a Texas voter in Williamson County was banned from wearing a t-shirt with the words “Vote the Bible” printed on the front. On October 24, Williamson County election workers at the Taylor City Hall polling place told Kay Hill that before she would be allowed to vote she had to turn her shirt inside out, go home and change, or cover up the words “Vote the Bible” because they “may be offensive to some people.”

After voicing disagreement numerous times, Ms. Hill ultimately complied and was forced to cover up the words “Vote the Bible.” Williamson County election workers provided her with an election worker’s jacket to cover up the “offensive” words. Ms. Hill later spoke with Williamson County Election Administrator Rick Barron who confirmed that the election workers could make this decision to ban the words “Vote the Bible.”

“It’s outrageous that a person of faith would be mistreated this way while trying to vote. If this isn’t voter intimidation, I don’t know what is?” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. “We hope Williamson County officials step up and put an end to this injustice immediately. No one else should have to suffer the humiliation, embarrassment and intimidation that Ms. Hill endured. No one should be asked to give up their religious freedom in order to vote,” said Saenz.

Texas Values is assisting Ms. Hill in asking Williamson County to end this unfair policy immediately. Texas Values has also requested that Williamson County issue an apology to Ms. Hill and circulate instructions to all Williamson County election workers and polling places that it is permissible to vote while wearing a t-shirt with the words “Vote the Bible.”

Ms. Hill is prepared to file a formal complaint with the Texas Secretary of State’s office if Williamson County refuses to remedy this situation by 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, 2012.

The letter sent to Williamson County can be found here

UPDATE:   Apparently while you can't wear a "Vote the Bible" shirt inside the polling site, the NAACP can completely take over a polling site and openly engage in electioneering.  Full story here...