At the Aug. 11 meeting, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 in favor of accepting voting locations recommended by the Hays County Citizens Election Advisory Committee.
This means, for now at least, an extra polling location will not be added to the campus.
County Judge Ruben Becerra cast the dissenting vote after a lengthy debate about polling locations on the Texas State campus.
Becerra wished to add a second Election Day polling location at the university’s Student Rec Center and said the option had support from the school.
During public comments, multiple students from voting advocacy group Texas Rising noted that lines to vote were more than four hours long during previous elections, and a representative for the group told the court that turning out the youth vote has already been a challenge.
With COVID-19 and the ongoing burden of voting in person, it is more important that voting needs to be made easier, the representative said.
However, the additional polling location was met with varying degrees of opposition by county commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe initially seemed to support Becerra’s proposition but ultimately voted against it, noting she wished to revisit the matter after Elections Administrator and Voter Registrar Jennifer Anderson examined how equipment and staff would be supplied.
Anderson told the court that a single voting machine could be shifted from another location, but the state’s recommended time to finalize plans for the Nov. 3 election was passing by.
Despite reassurances from Anderson that the additional polling location would not affect the balance of other election precincts, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jones voted to support the schedule of voting locations as it was recommended—without the second on-campus option.
District 4 Commissioner Walt Smith opposed the additional polling location within his district and said the university recommended the planned voting location at the Performing Arts Center on the edge of campus as of Aug. 6.
Smith did not clarify whether that recommendation was made under the assumption the university could only select a single location.
“That’s in my precinct; I want to maintain a location for the university in my precinct, and that’s their preference,” Smith said.
Historically, on-campus voting was done at the LBJ Student Center, which is in a more central location for students. Becerra said the change of venue had to do with concerns related to the coronavirus.
Smith went on to suggest impropriety on the part of Becerra, who avoided a question about whether a meeting about the Rec Center polling location included ballot candidates. Becerra said the meeting was last minute and not planned by him.
If the second campus polling location is revisited by the court, it will need to be within the next few weeks to provide election officials time to prepare.