At its October 11 meeting, the Hays County Commissioners Court recognized October as Czech Heritage Month and expanded the discussion of voting challenges within the county.
Judge Ruben Becerra expressed his respect for this month as it brings forth diversity and inclusion in ways that are often unannounced.
"I think diversity makes us stronger," Becerra said. "I'm grateful to be in this space at this moment in time, I know we have Indigenous, Latino, German, Czech and every variety of people that make up our magnificent community."
Commissioner Walt Smith shared a personal anecdote emphasizing the importance of recognizing Czech immigrants who have settled in Texas and respecting one's differences.
"The persecution that even today a lot of folks take for where they're from are [often] unrecognized," Smith said. "I just didn't want to pass over what we're talking about today without recognizing the struggles these folks go through on a daily basis."
Joseph Baar Topinka, Texas State professor and executive director for the Bexar County chapter of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas, shared his outlook on diversity within the city.
"San Marcos truly is an international city," Topinka said. "This month is really not a celebration of just Czech heritage ... it is the celebration of all of us."
As November yields election month, Hays County community members fear the issues that have been prevalent in recent elections.
During public comment, multiple citizens conveyed their feelings toward voter suppression and discrimination concerning absentee votes.
Enrique Ospina commented on the idea that there were 12,454 absentee votes in the 2020 election, however, that number was not reflected after citizens received invalid or fewer applications than requested.
"Who can say today that votes were not counted in 2020 without proper applications or envelopes?" Ospina said.
Mary Mitchell expressed the desire for paper ballots as it exonerates the use of an electronic ballot system.
"If we choose to protect voter's rights and go to paper voting only, there is nothing standing between me and the paper I vote on," Mitchell said. "Your lack of action is suppressing votes of we the voters."
Judge Becerra alludes to the fact that he will address these concerns in the next meeting after the general counsel reviews the issues.
Early voting begins the last week of October and voting centers can be found here.
The Hays County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. on select Tuesdays each month. For more information, visit its website.
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