BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Starting in November, voters will be able to go to any polling location to cast ballots on Election Day, but exactly how many of those locations are needed is now up for debate.
In May, Bexar County not only approved the purchase of new voting machines at a cost of $12 million, commissioners also approved countywide voting centers.
The change will be similar to the early voting process and could prevent votes from being thrown out.
The Texas Civil Rights Project reported that in the 2018 election, 214 votes were thrown out in Bexar County from people who voted in the wrong precinct.
The group estimates that across the five Texas counties with the largest voter turnout, 4,608 votes were thrown out for the same reason.
The number of voting centers is now up for discussion with the change.
In May, the Bexar County Elections Office proposed consolidating the existing 287 precinct voting sites to 275 locations throughout the county.
After requests from public interest groups to keep the sites open, commissioners voted to keep all 287 locations open for the November election.
“There would be too much confusion if we close or consolidate voting sites without educating the people,” said Madhu Sridhar, president of the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area.
Bexar County Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff was the only commissioner who voted against keeping all the sites open. He said he supports the move toward countywide voting centers, but he doesn’t believe keeping all the locations open was the best use of taxpayer money.
“The problem is that that costs money,” Wolff said.
Commissioners approved $655,000 for additional voting machines for the 287 voting sites, rather than the proposed 275 sites.
Wolff said the original proposal of 275 sites gives people more options than they had when people had to vote in their precinct on Election Day.
“Replacing one (place to vote) with 275 options was more than enough,” Wolff said.
Sridhar said keeping all the sites open is a positive thing. She said she believes if the sites were closed, it would discourage low-income residents from voting.
“If we consolidate sites in those communities, then the voting centers will be farther apart, and these are also the communities that face the public transportation challenge,” Sridhar said.
The League of Women Voters said it supports countywide voting centers, but it said deciding which centers will be closed needs strategic planning before its done.
It has not been decided if all 287 voting centers will remain open for the November 2020 election.