Hays County residents speak on countywide polling system as application deadline nears

Hays County is nearing the end of its state application process to switch to countywide polling, a system that would allow registered voters to cast their ballot at any county polling location not only during early voting, but on election day as well.

Both supporters and opponents of the proposed system, sometimes referred to as a vote center system, came out to voice their opinions at an April 23 public hearing at Hays County Commissioners Court.

Hays County Election Administrator Jennifer Anderson said she hopes to have an application submitted to the state on behalf of the county by the first week of May. If it is approved, Hays County will use the countywide polling system for the first time in November.

Hays County resident Sam Brannon was one of two people who spoke out against switching to countywide polling at the public hearing, citing concerns that the issue had not been publicized well enough and that it could lead to a decreased number of polling places in the future.

Anderson pointed out that the issue had been discussed in open meetings among all of the governmental bodies of the county as they considered—and ultimately approved—resolutions to support the application to switch to a countywide polling system, as is required by the state.

Anderson also said that separate from those meetings, the April 23 hearing was the fourth public event hosted or coordinated by the county.

“[Anderson] wrote in her presentation that one unanticipated finding is the much stronger and positive effect vote centers have on voter turnout among non-habitual voters,” Brannon said. “And you know, I can’t imagine how anybody could justify how that’s going to serve this republic, how that’s going to serve democracy in Hays County to be ushering into the polls the least-informed voters who would not otherwise vote, just to cancel out my vote.”

Anderson said at a Feb. 27 Commissioners Court meeting that countywide polling could lead to fewer polling locations in the future, as the county would have the authority to close demonstrably under-used polling locations.

“The principle behind that is, you would be able to reduce the number of polling places,” Anderson said in February. “Of course, we wouldn’t do that up front. But certainly, if after several years we see a voting center is not being utilized, we wouldn’t want to continue to spend money to keep that open.”

More than a dozen county residents came to the public hearing to speak in favor of a countywide polling system, many of them noting that such a system could eliminate confusion some voters have about which precinct they have to vote in, a problem that occurred most recently at Texas State University in 2018.

Local resident Brandon James said he believes the ease-of-access voting centers could provide is one of the main reasons why Hays County should move forward with them. James also said he hopes the county makes Texas State a voting center if the application is approved, because some students have difficulty going to polling locations off campus.

Nicholas Hoover, who served as a local election worker for multiple years, said he supports countywide polling because he has seen firsthand how many people are often confused and are unsure of which precinct they have to vote in on election day.

“Working the polls, it is very discouraging to have to turn people away because they’ve come to the wrong precinct,” Hoover said. “Sometimes people get confused about where to go and what to do and I think many people will have this problem solved by having these voting centers around the county. I think it’s important that we make sure that as many people as possible can vote.”
By Anna Herod
Anna Herod covers local government, education, business and the environment as the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. In the past, Anna served as the reporter for Community Impact's San Marcos/Buda/Kyle paper. Her bylines have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Hays Free Press and The Burleson Star. She is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the Central Texas area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

The new operating rooms should be ready by the fall. (Courtesy Ascension Seton Hays)
Ascension Seton Hays in Kyle expanding with two new operating rooms

The Ascension Seton Hays hospital facility in Kyle has begun construction on two new operating rooms that will increase its capacity for complex surgeries.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

JAMS Music owner Ace Pepper restrings an acoustic guitar at his shop on Aquarena Springs Drive. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
JAMS Music in San Marcos to close by end of April

Owner Ace Pepper, who also plays in several local bands and works as a sound engineer, said the company that owns the building he leases is selling the property, and is not sure if he will continue his guitar shop at another location.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine wait after receiving their shot at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
National supply issues with Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect Austin-area shipments

After a manufacturing error ruined 15 million doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the supply will not increase until the plant in Baltimore is once again allowed to participate in production.

Courtesy Oldham Family Orthodontics
Oldham Family Orthodontics now open in Kyle

The practice provides comprehensive orthodontic treatment of braces and Invisalign to children and adults of all ages