Court votes to apply for countywide polling places
Changes could be coming to the way Hays County residents cast their ballots on Election Day.
At its meeting Tuesday morning, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the county’s application for the state’s Countywide Polling Place Program.
Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson explained that the program allows for countywide voting centers to be used instead of polling places located in each county election precinct.
“Basically vote centers are what we do in early voting, but on Election Day,” she explained.
Texas counties can submit applications to the Texas Secretary of State to participate in the program. Anderson said there are several parts to the application, and she and her staff will be working over the next few months to complete all the requirements.
“It takes support from all the jurisdictions, it takes agreement from all the jurisdictions to run jointly in elections,” she said. Public meetings on the voting system are also required. Anderson said after the application is complete, Hays County would run the November 2019 election using countywide vote centers and submit a report to the state afterward.
“I know there are a lot of jurisdictions, cities, schools, that are waiting for the court to take action for support,” Anderson told the commissioner. “I think there’s unanimous support for adopting the voting center voting method.”
She noted that a major motivation for changing to the countywide system is that it would reduce the number of provisional ballots cast in an election by residents voting at the wrong location and would allow voters to cast their ballots in a location convenient to them — perhaps closer to their home than their designated precinct location has been.
Anderson said the county would not be required to have polling places set up in all precincts, but she has proposed the creation of a polling place study committee to see which polling places should be used.
Donna Haschke, chair of the Hays County Democratic Party, spoke to the commissioners in favor of the resolution and the countywide voting program. She noted that whatever the political makeup of the commissioners court, it has “always been a proponent of universal suffrage,” and she praised the countywide voting centers proposal as “a true example of bipartisan cooperation that supports the interests of all voters.”
“It is a great step forward,” County Judge Ruben Becerra said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe praised Anderson for pursuing the countywide voting program, noting that it will help increase participation and perhaps decrease confusion about polling locations.
“I think it’s a great step for Hays County,” Ingalsbe said.
According to the resolution, Anderson and the commissioners court will hold the first of three public meetings on the new system on April 23.