The Texas secretary of state’s office has deemed Hays County’s pilot of the countywide polling program a success.
Earning a “successful” designation allows the county to continue using the system, which allows voters to cast a ballot at any polling place in the county without having to reapply.
At the time of the last election, 69 counties in Texas were using countywide polling systems, with some of the largest—Tarrant, Harris, Bexar and Dallas—running pilots in 2019. A majority of Texas voters now cast ballots under the countywide polling program, including those in nearby Travis, Williamson, Comal, Guadalupe and Kendall.
Though countywide polling has widespread support from organizations such as the League of Women Voters, it does mean that a county is permitting to reduce the number of polling locations in the county by 65% in the first election and 50% in subsequent elections.
Hays County did not decrease the number of polling locations available to voters in the November contest, nor are there plans to do so in 2020, according to a Dec. 31 news release. But the process of choosing vote center locations last August did bring up controversy over equity and access, with some officials and residents arguing the original list did not have enough polling locations east of I-35 and that they were unequally distributed elsewhere as well.
Those discussions led to the formation of a citizens election commission, which is meant to meet at least twice a year after elections to evaluate polling locations.
Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson told Community Impact Newspaper before the last election that even with successful status, the county remains accountable to the state.
“It’s important for people to know that once the state deems you successful, that’s not forever,” Anderson said. “It’s election by election, so any time there’s a problem with the polling or whatever, they can certainly re-evaluate.”
Hays County's November pilot of countywide polling system deemed 'successful'
Hart Intercivic hybrid voting machines were used in Hays County for the first time in the fall 2019 elections. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)