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Denton County Elections Administrator upgrades to Tarrant County office

Denton County Elections Administrator upgrades to Tarrant County office

Denton County Elections Administrator upgrades to Tarrant County office
September 16
19:25 2014

Rhiannon Saegert / Senior Staff Writer

After 18 years, former elections administrator Frank Phillips has left Denton County to take over a much larger operation at Tarrant County Elections Department.

Phillips said the decision wasn’t easy.

“I’ve been in Denton a long time. The people there have been like family to me,” he said. “The staff at Tarrant County, they have become an industry leader as a far as how to do things. When we have trouble in the other counties, the one we turn to for guidance is Tarrant County. It was just a chance at career growth I couldn’t turn down.”

Denton County contains 158 voting precincts and Tarrant County consists of over 600 precincts. Aside from that, both districts use the same voting registration software and voting equipment, making the transition easier.

The voting process takes months. Hundreds of voting attendants need to be hired and trained to work in one of the 365 disability accessible voting sites that need to be secured by the time early voting starts, 49 days before Election Day. Overseas ballots and mail-in ballots have to be mailed out 45 days before an election.

The wording, organization, spelling and order of candidates and categories has to be checked and approved, translated to Spanish and converted to audio in both languages. Errors or ambiguous wording mean the election results could be contested.

Phillips said Denton County handled more than 28,000 new voter registrations last year. In a larger county like Tarrant, there’s even more voter registrations to account for. The larger the district, the more chances to make mistakes. Phillips said one of the most common snags in the election process is voters receiving the wrong ballot.

“These usually get caught when that person goes to vote,” Phillips said. “If you show up at a poll and you get the wrong ballot, do not vote on that ballot because once you vote, you’re done.”

Phillips said when the Denton County elections office had to recount about 40,000 ballots for the 2014 Republican Party primary, they modeled their approach to the problem on Tarrant County’s. He said it’s a common way for smaller, less complex districts like Denton to handle problems they haven’t encountered before.

“Of course, I generally knew what to do,” he said. “The first place we turned to was Tarrant County. There’s just issues that arise more frequently in a large county. When those things happen in a smaller county, of course you turn to a big county to see how to handle it.”

Phillips was selected by a five person commission consisting of Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, county judge B. Glen Whitley, county clerk Mary Louise Garcia, Tarrant County Democratic Party chairman Deborah Peoples and Tarrant County Republican Party chairman Jennifer Hall. They chose to hire Phillips because of his experience in the similar Denton County.

“Because he came from Denton County, he was familiar with the same equipment,” Hall said. “It’s a sizeable county, so he’s managed a similar number of people. He just had, to me, a complete package of what we were looking for here in Tarrant County.”

The new Denton elections administrator Kerry Martin said he learned a lot from Phillips while working with him as deputy elections administrator the year before.

“He was a great leader,” he said. “He taught me quite a bit about the job.”

Martin said they were able to handle the ballot recount earlier this year smoothly thanks to Phillips’ leadership.

“It was a lot of fun working with him,” he said. “We still talk daily, so he’s still helping the voters of Denton, and I’m sure he’ll continue to do a good job in Tarrant County.”

Featured Image: Former elections administrator Frank Phillips. Photo by Brian Owens – Contributing Photographer

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