Jim Wells County using social media to inform voters

Posted at 12:17 AM, Sep 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-26 01:17:47-04

With about two and a half weeks from the start of early voting for the November election, KRIS Communications has discovered that some area counties aren't following requirements to keep voters informed.

The state requires counties to post everything a voter would need to be informed for an election - like candidate information, polling places and sample ballots, 21 days before voting starts. With early voting starting in less than three weeks, some haven’t updated their sites and one is using a Facebook page.

Jim Wells County is using Facebook. Elections Coordinator Richard Guerra thought the social media platform would be an effective way to get information to voters.

“In the situation we’re in, it’s definitely an option,” said Guerra. “Has it been tested to its fullest extent? Probably not.”

Guerra doesn’t know the last time the county’s site was updated. He took over the job in April and has been inundated with mail-in ballot requests ever since.

“We’ve gone from 963 mail in requests in the July runoff to just a bit over 1,600 now,” said Guerra.

Despite Guerra and his staff’s workload, residents feel that information should be easy to find.

“It should be accessible, regardless,” said David Alvarado.

While Alvarado doesn’t use the county’s election site, he feels that using Facebook is the wrong way to get the information out.

“You start looking at some of the older generation that aren’t familiar with that type of information, or where to be able to go and find it," Alvarado said. "I think it’s going to make it tough for them."

Other counties are behind as well. Kleberg County's site is missing sample ballots, while Duval and Live Oak Counties haven't been updated since July's runoff. Meanwhile, Kenedy county hasn't updated its site since 2016.

The Jim Wells County Elections page currently has less than 30 likes, but all election information is posted publicly and is available for download. Guerra understands using Facebook isn't the best option, but admits he’s learning on the job.

“The election itself will point out our deficiencies and help us in the future to see where we need to go to improve,” said Guerra.

Guerra plans to update the county’s election site, but says won’t be able to until after the election, adding that his office partners with the local newspaper to help get the information out.

While the Secretary of State's office has the requirements for counties posted, there's no mention of penalties for counties that don't properly maintain their election sites.