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Commissioners court removes early voting locations for upcoming election
The Hays County Commissioners Court approved the removal of additional early voting locations, citing the need to balance polling places in each of the county’s four precincts, during a special called meeting Friday.
According to Texas Election Code Section 43.007 (m), no commissioners precinct can exceed more than twice the number of polling places of any other commissioners precinct. This process is necessary for the balancing of polling places in precincts.
Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said the voting location at Ledgestone Independent Living — 13150 Four Star Blvd. in Austin — could no longer be used because of COVID-19 protocols requiring mask and temperature checks, which are not allowed under the current election code. To balance the amount of polling locations in each precinct, Anderson recommended removing Simon Middle School — 3839 FM 150 in Kyle — as an early voting location.
“Unfortunately, there are times where polling places have to be eliminated,” Anderson said. “But I would like to remind the people here in the audience and the people that may be watching that we have more than doubled our early voting locations since I’ve been in office and I am committed to continuing to try to add to polling locations where they’re needed.”
Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said she was disappointed that a precinct 1 location had to be removed.
“I would prefer that we wouldn’t remove any of the precinct 1 sites but it almost appears that there’s really not a choice,” Ingalsbe said. “Yarrington transportation department is probably the other newest (voting) site that we have, and I guess I would consider removing that and keeping Simon just because that was giving us two sites in the Kyle area and then give us two sites in the San Marcos area. Again, I would prefer not to have to do that but that may be an option that I would support.”
The commissioners chose to keep Simon Middle School and removed the Hays County Transportation Department at 2171 Yarrington Road in San Marcos as an early voting location. Both, however, will still be used on election day.
Looking toward future elections, Commissioner Walt Smith said if anyone has suggestions for election sites to submit them to court to help prevent imbalances from occurring the in the future.
“I would encourage every single citizen, if they have polling locations, please submit them to us right now,” Smith said, “and I will try to add them for the next election. Who knows what our precincts will look like in the next election so all this is going to get thrown into flux again because we’ll have to assign them just like statute is making us do right now. Some of these locations that we’re talking about right now might be in my precinct, they might be in Commissioner Jones’, they may be in Commissioner Ingalsbe’s when those lines change. We’re going to have to take a really hard look at where those established voting centers are because I have no doubt that whenever those lines change, we're going to be completely out of balance just because of where the population is right now. So, it’s going to take due diligence on all of our parts to try to add additional locations where we can.”
Commissioner Mark Jones later recommended that citizens with voting location suggestions not offer those located in area school districts.
“I think our days are numbered at being able to use schools,” Jones said. “I know Hays CISD, we’re having to twist their arm. And they have good reason because they have to let people in there that might not be allowed in that school … I’m just afraid at some point we may get into some trouble there, so we need to try and get away from that.”
Ultimately, the commissioners unanimously approved the removal of the Hays County Transportation Department at Yarrington.
Early voting for the Nov. 2 election begins Monday and stretches through Friday, Oct. 29.