According to Texas Election Code, in every odd-numbered year counties must identify which precincts contain 5,000 registered voters—which is the maximum amount allowed in a single precinct. It is then up to the county election offices to split those identified precincts into additional precincts to lower the amount of registered voters in each.
Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said this process is not to be confused with redistricting, where the boundaries of precincts change. On the contrary, all of the additional precincts created during a split must stay within the precinct’s original boundaries and be bordered by natural boundaries such as city or county lines.
The following precincts were split because they were either approaching or exceeding the maximum number of registered voters allowed in a single precinct: 113, 120, 127, 129, 221, 224, 228, 336, 337, 443 and 444.
The splitting of the 11 precincts resulted in the creation of 19 additional precincts: 114, 115, 121, 122, 123, 126, 128, 130, 220, 222, 235, 231, 233, 227, 340, 338, 446, 445 and 448.
Residents who live in one of the new precincts that were created as a result of the splitting of the identified 11 precincts will receive new voter registration cards in the mail that accurately reflect which precinct they live in.
Anderson said these changes will have no impact on which candidates residents get to vote for, as the splits were merely administrative changes required by Texas law—not redistricting, which will happen in 2021.
Commissioner Lon Shell pointed out that with 19 additional voting precincts, the county would be required to pay to create 19 additional polling places—unless some could be consolidated, which is allowed by law if a certain precinct is historically used by less than 500 people.
Anderson pointed out that if the county moves to voting centers—which it is working on doing—the county will not necessarily have to pay to create 19 additional polling places. Voting centers would allow the county to have more central polling locations where all registered voters in the county could vote at regardless of what precinct they live in. The county has not yet received approval from the state to switch to voting centers, as the application to do so is not due until August.
If the state approves the county’s request, Hays County will be able to implement voting centers by the November election.
“Definitely [the precinct splits] would affect the [local political] parties in the sense that they would have to have precinct chairs for these locations if we weren’t [using] vote centers,” Anderson said, noting that either way, the precinct splits are necessary in order to maintain compliance with the Texas Election Code. “They would potentially need to campaign or electioneer at these polling locations. There would be caucus meetings at these polling locations. Growing affects everybody from all angles.”