By, Terra Rivers, Managing Editor
Voters in Hays County will see new voting equipment and countywide polling centers at the polls this November.
In May, the Hays County Elections Office submitted the county’s application to participate in the Countywide Polling Program.
Hays County Elections Administrator, Jennifer Anderson, said the Secretary of State’s office holds two applications cycles every year where four small counties and six large counties in Texas are approved per application cycle to participate in the countywide polling program.
The six-month application cycles are January for the May election and August for the November.
Anderson said Hays County worked hard to file its application early as applications are approved on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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. Participation in the countywide polling program also received overwhelming support from the community.
Anderson said the resolutions will make all elections in Hays County joint elections and allow school districts and cities to share the cost of an election.
“The reason why I went to get the resolutions from all the school districts and the cities is because basically they’re agreeing at that point that every election is going to be a joint election,” Anderson said. “Which is going to be helpful for us in a lot of areas. Specifically, because, in the May elections, we’ve had some problems where Hays CISD voters and city of San Marcos voters have to go to two different places to vote.”
With countywide elections, Anderson said, voters who live within the city limits of San Marcos and are in the Hays CISD school district will be able to vote at a single location to cast their votes.
The Elections Office held two public meetings on the issue prior to the application’s submission and participated in an event held by the League of Women Voters to share information on the program.
Anderson said she’s been wanting to participate in the countywide polling program for a long time, but she wanted to make the transition when the county was able to purchase new polling equipment.
Hays County is in the process of purchasing hybrid systems, which will create a paper trail for officials and voters to review.
With the hybrid systems, voters will use an electronic machine to fill out their ballots and will receive a receipt of their votes for them to review. The receipts are then scanned into another machine for the ballot to actually be recorded and tallied.
The Hays County Commissioners are slated to select a vendor to purchase the machines from on July 30.
Hays County intends to have twelve polling places in Precinct 1, twelve polling places in Precinct 2, six polling places in Precinct 3 and six polling places in Precinct 4.
A polling place study group is currently in the process of identifying the best locations for the polling centers. The study group will provide a recommendation which will be reviewed by the election board before going before the commissioners’ court.
The documentation provided by Hays County states the county will use the new Hays Consolidated Independent School District Transportation Building as one of its 12 polling places.
However, the county will use the Goforth Water Supply Building in Precinct 2 until the transportation building is completed, which is not expected until after the 2019 General Election.
Anderson said once a vendor is selected for the polling machines, the county will hold several public meetings to allow voters to see the new machines and learn how they wore prior to election day.
Voters can expect to receive a full list of the county’s voting centers on their election notices.