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Bexar County Elections Must Increase Election Day Polling Sites, Judge Says

A Bexar County district judge has ruled the Bexar County Elections Department must open additional Election Day polling sites.

In a verbal ruling District Judge Karen Pozza said the county must add 18 voting centers and publicize the Election Day sites 21 days before the election, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project. The order has not been formally signed as of Wednesday afternoon. The lawsuit was filed by progressive organizations MOVE Texas and the Texas Organizing Project.

The order requires that Bexar County must increase its number of Election Day voting centers from 284 sites to 302 — the same number used in the 2018 midterm elections. The plaintiffs had asked for 311 voting sites but amended their request.

“With record-turnout expected for this year’s election, we’re glad to see the court push to expand polling place access for Bexar County voters and transparency from the Elections Department,” said H. Drew Galloway, MOVE Texas Civic Fund Executive Director. “Despite Texas’ ugly history of voter suppression, we’re fighting to ensure every eligible voter can make their voice heard.”

Joaquin Gonzalez, attorney with The Texas Civil Rights Project who represented TOP and MOVE said reducing the number of sites would cause disenfranchisement to voters of color.

“For those groups increasing the distance to the nearest polling location decreases turn out and that’s been proven,” Gonzalez said.

The county moved to a voting center model last year where voters can vote at any Election Day site instead of just their home precinct.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he felt the county had enough voting centers, but he’s asked Election’s Administrator Jacque Callanen to find the needed locations as a result of the ruling.

“I’ve asked Jacque to work real hard on finding some additional sites, she’s doing that right now rounding up the equipment that we may need for it,” he said.

Wolff said he had not seen a written version of the order by Tuesday night. He did not indicate if the county would appeal the decision.

The decision does not impact the number of early voting sites. That number will stay at 48 locations. Early voting began on Tuesday and will run until Oct 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules