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Mayor wanted city council runoff election date moved up. Port Arthur leaders debate pros, cons of move.

The election runoff date for two Port Arthur City Council positions will remain Dec. 19 after council members Tuesday removed a proposed ordinance to reschedule the election to Dec. 12.

Mayor Thurman Bartie said he requested rescheduling to expedite the runoff process and move it a little further away from Christmas Day. He expressed that having an earlier runoff might enhance voter participation in Port Arthur, which set a turnout rate record with the Nov. 3 general election.

“It was not to be insensitive, but I was thinking about the timeframe and the season,” Bartie said.

Harold Doucet, in his last regular meeting as District 4 councilman, suggested the mayor entertain motions to remove the proposal after explaining the council had already agreed to a Dec. 19 runoff date by ordinance when Nov. 3 was established as the general election date. That was done in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as city elections are typically held in May.

“I don’t want my last council meeting to be something I vote against the mayor on,” Doucet said. “Can you please remove this?”

Doucet, who chose not to run for reelection, said he would buy Bartie dinner if he had the proposal removed. Doucet then joked: “I’ll meet you at McDonald’s at 4,” drawing a laugh from Bartie and other council members.

Ingrid West Holmes and former councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr. are facing off for the District 1 seat presently held by Raymond Scott Jr., who is term-limited in that position. Scott is taking on Port Arthur Independent School District board trustee Donald Ray Frank Sr. for the at-large Position 8 seat, as incumbent Kaprina Frank is term-limited.

“I’ve already paid expenses to the newspaper,” Scott said. “I don’t think we, as councilpersons, can change the pattern. I’ve already started preparing by paying for ads for an election on Dec. 19.”

City secretary Sherri Bellard informed the council had the runoff moved up a week, the deadline for citizens to register to vote would have moved up to Thursday (Nov. 12). Instead, the deadline remains Nov. 19.

“I’m not asking to do anything to disenfranchise a voter in Port Arthur,” Bartie said. “Doing it earlier might enhance voter participation in Port Arthur.”

Doucet told Bartie: “No matter what we do, we’re going to be dealing with this in December. I don’t think we should attempt to change this after we informed all the candidates the runoff date should be Dec. 19. We’ve followed the procedures. I understand it’s around the holidays. We’ve worked and had meetings on Dec. 23 [in past years].

“When it comes to the citizens, just having to do anything in December is a problem.”

Important Port Arthur election dates

Nov. 17 — Votes from the general and special elections will be canvassed. A special council meeting will be held to approve the count and to swear in winners of four council races (incumbents Cal Jones in District 2, Thomas Kinlaw III in District 3 and Charlotte Moses in at-large Position 7; and Kenneth Marks in District 4).

Dec. 7-15 — Early voting for runoffs in District 1 (Ingrid West Holmes vs. Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr.) and at-large Position 8 (Raymond Scott Jr. vs. Donald Ray Frank Sr.)

Dec. 19 — Election day for the runoffs

Dec. 30 — Votes from the runoffs will be canvassed. A special council meeting will be held to approve the count and to swear in the winners of those races.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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