Bexar County Commissioners voted Tuesday to begin the process of changing traditional voting centers in time for the Nov. 5 elections.
County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen presented the plan that allows a voter to cast a ballot at any of the voting centers across Bexar County on Election Day, just like in the early voting period before elections.
The voting centers could save the county money by reducing the need for the number of traditional voting precincts, Callanen has said in the past. Those traditional voting sites could be cut by 20%, she said.
But speakers from minority rights organizations urged commissioners to keep using the current number of voting precincts in place through the November 2020 Presidential Election.
Non-presidential and non-gubernatorial election races traditionally use 287 polling sites. That number increases to 304 sites for presidential and gubernatorial races. The county voted to spend more than $600,000 for the election equipment needed to maintain the number of polling locations, in addition to $11 million they spent on new election computers in May.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert warned fellow commissioners voter confusion and disenfranchisement could lead to lawsuits.
Calvert won a vote for $50,000 in funding for a voter education program concerning polling place changes.
But County Judge Nelson Wolff reminded all parties present of the county’s election record under Callanen since she took office in 2002. Not a single vote lost.
“I just want to make sure that people understand that we run damn good elections for a very, very long time and we have not had lawsuits filed against us for discriminating against a voter,” Wolff said.
The commissioners agreed with the organizations to make sure the voting centers don’t replace traditional voting sites convenient to public transportation, especially in neighborhoods with poor and elderly voters.
“The Secretary of State noted in his January 2, 2019 election advisory that when a county adopts a methodology for polling place location selection one factor to consider is the availability of public transportation to a polling location,” said Ernest Herrera, a staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Commissioners directed the election’s office to have the list of polling sites for the Nov. 5 election finalized and sent to the state for approval by Aug. 20.