San Antonio – Bexar County Commissioners want to institute more options, if possible, to make voting easier and safer for Bexar County voters in October and November, but the elections administrator says not all of those ideas may be possible.
With the exception of Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who was out of town, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in support of implementing several ideas, including:
- the facilitation of a drive-thru voting option;
- the operation of a 24-hour polling site at least one day out of the week during early voting;
- the establishment of at least one “mega vote center” for each of the four Bexar County Precincts for early voting and Election Day;
- alternative delivery options for “satellite in-person mail ballot delivery” on Election Day for voters;
- and sending applications for mail-in ballots with prepaid return postage to all eligible voters 65 or older.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez, who proposed the resolution, said he believes the county should do everything it can during the pandemic to ensure voters have options, access, convenience, and safety.
“So this is the time, if any, to be somewhat aspirational about making sure we’re thinking outside the box,” Rodriguez said.
After the vote, Judge Nelson Wolff said they would need help from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office to determine the legality of the different options as well as the support of Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen to actually adopt them.
Callanen told reporters the Bexar County Elections Department is “thrilled” about the mega centers, and it already has agreements to use the AT&T Center in Precinct 4 and the Alzafar Shrine Auditorium in Precinct 3. However, it is still looking for options in Precincts 1 and 2.
“It’s going to be a wonderful thing because we can spread more of the units out,” Callanen said.
However, Callanen indicated to reporters that other ideas - a 24-hour early voting location and drop-boxes for mail-in ballots - likely wouldn’t pan out.
The logistics of a 24-hour voting location would be “very, very stressful,” Callanen said, and voters will already have an extra six days for Early Voting because of Gov. Greg Abbott.
She also claimed it could disenfranchise some voters trying to vote on a limited ballot or a presidential ballot. Those voters could only cast their ballot at the Bexar County Elections Department, which is the main Early Voting site and is only open during office hours.
Rodriguez, though, scoffed at the idea that having 24-hour access to a vote center would disenfranchise anyone and noted it wouldn’t be open for the full Early Voting period.
“We’re talking about maybe one day each week of Early Vote, having one center open for 24 hours,” Rodriguez told reporters. “Look, we are now seeing the effects of our health care workers, our public safety personnel, our first responders working odd hours, long hours. Why not give them and others an opportunity to vote in a maximized way? And that’s a 24-hour option. So I think that can still happen.”
While Rodriguez’s resolution calls for “alternative delivery options for satellite in-person mail ballot delivery from voters on Election Day,” discussion during the meeting revolved around the idea of “drop-boxes” or “drop-off box locations.” Rodriguez, himself, noted there was “some question” as to whether such stand-alone locations would be allowed, while Callanen told reporters directly that “they’re not legal at this point.”
“If someone comes with their ballot, which we’ll gladly take at the main Early Voting site, that person still has to come in person, show us a photo ID and then sign a roster - as they are, in fact, voting,” Callanen said. “That won’t happen at a drop-box.”
The resolution also included a line in support of using previously allocated money to recruit and hire “at least 25% supplemental Election Judges, Alternate Judges and Election Clerks” to make sure there is enough backup to work the polls.
“I think the attitude here is ‘don’t short-change yourself,‘” Wolff told Callanen. “If you have to hire 30 more people, 40 more people, 100 more people, go ahead and hire them.”
Callanen said the Spurs have offered up their own staff to help with the elections, which the elections department has accepted.