On Tuesday, the Hays County Commissioners Court held a public hearing to receive feedback from the community regarding the county’s proposal to join the Countywide Polling Places.
Residents signed up in numbers to comment on the county’s potential switch to countywide voting centers at this week’s commissioners court.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said the level of engagement from the community on the issue was a “genuine blessing,” and that the commissioners had “a bona fide stack of people” signed up to speak.
Jennifer Anderson, Hays County Elections Administrator, said the audio from the public hearing would be submitted to the state with the county’s application as part of the formal process to participate in the program.
“Over the past two months, my office has held two public meetings for all the public and geared toward all public,” Anderson said. “We did a lot of outreach to let people know about those public meetings. The third time we did public engagement was through the League of Women Voters Voter Rights forum.”
Anderson said all of the county’s local municipalities and jurisdictions have passed resolutions of support of the county’s inclusion into the program; Hays Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees was the last to pass a resolution. The vote took place Monday night, April 22.
“The polling place study group has been assembled; they have met, and they will meet again this Thursday,” Anderson continued. “Right now, we’re working on assessment worksheets, identifying criteria and identifying locations within the county.”
Anderson said so far there is a consensus to continue to use the current locations when it’s possible to lessen voter confusion.
Residents from all over Hays County spoke in support of the county’s application of inclusion in the Countywide Polling Places.
Lucy Johnson recently moved to San Marcos but has been a Hays County resident for most of her life, she said.
Johnson said, “I’ve watched too many times as people who have been waiting hours and hours in line are turned away because they’re not in the right precinct. Thank goodness I have a car and can drive to the Hays County Government Center to vote early. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
Nicholas Hoover said he has been an election worker for many years, and it has been discouraging to have to turn voters away because they were in the wrong precinct.
“I think many people will have this problem solved by having these voting centers around the county,” Hoover said. “I think it’s important that as many people as possible can vote.”
Several Texas State University students spoke to commissioners about the impact countywide voting would have on students, who did not have their own means of transportation to reach their precincts on election days.
Catherine Wicker, precinct chair for 334, said, “During the last election cycle, I worked very closely with the students many of which were first-time voters; the students wait time was upwards of two hours, and they wanted to make sure they did everything right.”
Wicker said the voting centers would allow students to vote on campus without fear and lower the number of provisional ballots the county has to count and deal with.
Linda Calvert, the President of the League of Women Voters of Hays County and a Wimberley resident, was the last person to speak during the public hearing.
Calvert told commissioners that the LWV is interested in increasing voter participation and that too many of Hays County citizens do not vote for a variety of reasons.
According to Calvert, the league supports voting centers on campus to allow students to participate in elections more easily.
Calvert, however, expressed concerns that with the recent increase in voter registration, which resulted in the creation of 19 new precincts, the league is concerned there will not be sufficient voting centers.
“We are committed to continuing the process of educating and advocating for machines and centers that increase voter participation and safeguard voting,” Calvert said. “Voting security is a priority.”