Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Higher voter participation is worth expense
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 18, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.
Voting is the right of all citizens of the United States. It is one of our most precious rights and responsibilities as members of a society where the government is elected by the citizens.
Because of this, we are in favor of any process that can make voting easier for citizens. Obviously, there must always be safeguards to preserve integrity and ensure a fair election, but these precautions should not limit or interfere with the right of a citizen to vote.
The current system for voting in Victoria County requires voters to go to one specific site for their precinct on Election Day. During early voting, there are a few locations open that are open to any registered voter, but on Election Day, voters must go to their specified precinct. This can be a complicated process, especially for someone who does not know where their designated polling place is or how to find out.
On Feb. 11, Elections Administrator George Matthews brought a proposal before the Victoria County Commissioners Court that would allow voters to use any of the polling places in the county but would reduce the number of open sites from 35 to 23. The commissioners decided against making this change based on multiple concerns, including the reduction in locations.
We agree with the commissioners. Cutting back the number of polling places available is counterproductive when the goal is to increase voter participation, especially when trying out a new system. We think the countywide system could work, but at least for the first time it is used, all the current locations should remain open. After the first election's results are in, officials can examine which sites were used and which had a low turnout and decide whether or not to cut back then. But overall, the point of elections is not to turn a profit or be economical. It is meant to give each citizen a chance to contribute their opinion when deciding who will lead our country. This is a long, sometimes complicated process that every citizen can and should take part in.
Another concern the commissioners shared was the possibility of voter confusion under the proposed system. We know any change in routine can cause confusion but allowing voters to cast their ballot at any of the countywide locations seems to be a simpler, more open system than requiring voters to track down and use one specific location which may or may not be in a convenient, well-known place. A countywide system would make the voting process much more convenient for many people as they go about their day-to-day routine on Election Day. If it is coupled with larger, more eye-catching signs indicating these locations, it would be an excellent way to increase voter turnout.
We encourage Victoria County officials to take another look at this proposal. Instead of cutting back the number of locations, keep them all open for at least the first election or two to gather data on voter turnout. This system could bring an effective increase in voting in Victoria County, but we won't know for sure until officials make the commitment to try.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.