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Officials prepare for election frenzy

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus, who has worked in the clerk's office for 33 years, has seen nothing like it.

This spring, there won't be one, not two, but three elections -- all in the span of about two months.

"I don't know of any, not over the years I've seen," Maskus said. "We really haven't had that many special elections; we have been fortunate there. (We) usually try to coincide them with another election."

City and school board elections throughout the county will be April 2. May 14 is a special election, when Ellis County voters will be asked to consider a 0.5-percent county sales tax for improvements to the courthouse, jail and law enforcement center and construction of an EMS/Rural Fire building. Voters in Ellis USD 388 will go to the polls June 4 to consider a $10 million school bond issue. While the first two elections are county-wide, the one in June will be smaller -- but the clerk's office must go through the same procedures to prepare for it.

The process for setting a date for the sales tax election started in January with the second publication of the public notice of the authority to issue bonds. Following that was a 30-day protest period, and after that, by state law, the county clerk's office must have 45 days to prepare for an election. That made it too late for the sales tax question to be included on the April ballot. Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said there were discussions about putting the sales tax question on the ballot with the USD 388 school bond issue, but commissioners ultimately decided against it, fearing it might encroach upon the school district's election.

The clerk's office goes through the same procedure to prepare for each election. Part of that is preparing the 70 electronic voting machines in the county, a task Maskus and two others in the office completed last week.

"We have to do logic and accuracy before every election to make sure everything's working properly, and they're ready," Maskus said.

Ellis County Deputy Clerk Bobbi Dreiling, who was hired in late January, is going to get broken in quickly on how the county runs an election.

"Very nerve-wracking, just because of three elections coming up and never doing any," she said. "I've learned a lot, how to set up an election. I never realized there was that much involved. So everybody should go vote, because there's a lot that goes on to get there."

When Alberta Klaus was the county clerk, she was there to troubleshoot on election night, and Maskus, as deputy clerk, got the vote tabulated. Maskus, who was elected in November to take over for the retiring Klaus, said she likely will follow the same procedure, but also be on hand to help Dreiling as needed.

Maskus gave credit to the county clerks she has worked with.

"I've had a lot of great leadership," she said. "They've given me great opportunities, and I enjoy elections."

Even three in two months.

"It will be interesting with three," she said. "We're ready."