ELECTION INTEGRITYOngoing Conspiracies Pushed Out the Elections Staff in This Texas County. The New Director Won’t Budge.

By Natalia Contreras, Votebeat

Published 23 February 2024

Jim Riley, who took the job as elections administrator in Gillespie County more than a year after the entire staff there quit, says he won’t give in to demands from voter fraud activists who want to ditch electronic voting equipment and hand count ballots.

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Jim Riley and his team spent weeks preparing for a forum he hoped would remind the public that elections in Gillespie County are “safe, accurate and dependable.”

The new county elections administrator expected more than 50 people. He asked a more experienced election official from a neighboring county to be there, in case he needed help clarifying election laws he’s less familiar with. He planned for a mock election, setting up voting equipment that the audience could use.

But fewer than two dozen people came. And some — county Republicans and local tea party members — walked out before his presentation ended. They’re the same people who Riley believes no longer want him in the job and who have disrupted the way elections are run in the county.

“Yeah, I’m disappointed. But the word will get out. They’ll go out and say that ‘he’s still there. He’s still standing’,” Riley said.

Riley, 76, intends to stay standing, even if it means standing up to the pressure of local right-wing activists who want him to radically change the way Gillespie elections are run. It’s more pushback than he expected when he took the job in August.

“I was just surprised. But I am dealing with it,” Riley said. “I’m not quitting.”

That’s no small commitment, considering Gillespie’s recent history. A little more than a year ago — following years of harassment by local right-wing activists fueled by unsupported claims of election malfeasance and conspiracy theories — the entire elections department in this Hill Country county quit.

Six months into his new role, Riley has signaled that he will not easily bend to the activists’ demands to fix county election problems that don’t exist. Since before he took the job, they have been mounting a pressure campaign to convince local officials to get rid of its electronic election equipment and switch to checking in voters on paper and counting votes by hand.

“If they thought that I was one who would follow along on this, then they were badly misinformed,” Riley said. “I stand by what I said: a hand count will not make elections in Gillespie better.”

A Republican and a semi-retired Presbyterian minister, Riley said when he sees a need, he turns to it and serves.