Poll centers stalled at commissioners court
By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 4, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.
• Received and approved $29,200 grant award from the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Program for airport security
• Approved Waste Management Service Agreement for Precinct 3
• Approved $42,530 budget amendment for sergeant administration salary at the sheriff's office
Victoria County Commissioners want more time before deciding to move forward on countywide poll centers for the upcoming election.
While the poll centers are expected to make voting more convenient by doing away with assigned polling places, commissioners, Victoria school district officials and community members feared the 35 percent reduction in poll sites would negatively impact voter turnout.
"I like the idea of county voting. ... I'm not crazy about having 23 boxes," Commissioner Danny Garcia said. "If you end up cutting three people - that won an election in the county commissioner race."
Elections Administrator George Matthews presented the case during Monday's meeting at the county courthouse.
His plan would reduce polling sites from 35 to 23.
"The advantage to having countywide polling places is that on Election Day, a voter may, from any precinct in the county, cast their ballot," Matthews said.
Under the poll center requirements, a county must keep a minimum of 65 percent of its polling sites. However, a county may keep all of its polling sites, he said.
"This does not change the election precincts," he said. "We will still use all 35 precincts as boundary lines for election officials."
Commissioner Gary Burns said the proposal is a solid concept and proposed a meeting between all officials involved in elections.
"I think there is some concern on the 23," he said. "What would be the problem of adding two or more sites per precinct?"
Matthews said the only holdup is resources.
The meeting will be at 2 p.m. Thursday.
A polling site can cost between $500 and $2,000, depending on voter turnout. About a third of that cost is for personnel, he said.
"The commissioners will have to create resources" if they want to keep all 35 open, Matthews said.
Commissioner Kevin Janak recommended phasing out polling sites.
"You've got people who've been voting at the same box for 50 years," he said. "I would hate to take that away from them."
Tami Keeling, VISD school board president, said the district supports countywide polling places, "but the reduction of the number of sites is something we are opposed to."
She went on to call the reduction in sites "totally inappropriate."
If approved by commissioners, the state secretary and the department of justice, the change would take place for the May 11 election.
Superintendent Robert Jaklich said the leadership of the school, city and community is at stake.
"When leadership counts more than anything in an organization today, we're really concerned that this change, at this time, is not in the best interests of the community," he said.
The application must be submitted to the secretary of state by Feb. 28. The state will only select 10 counties across the state to make the change this year, Matthews said.