Bexar County District Judge Martha Tanner on Oct. 10 ordered Bexar County Elections Department officials to add up to 129 additional polling locations on Election Day, Nov. 8.
This ruling, a news release said, will raise the county’s total number of midterm Election Day polling sites from 259 to 388.
Tanner's ruling comes six days after the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit against Bexar County on behalf of the Texas Organizing Project over the elections department’s decision to not reopen more than 40 Election Day polling sites that welcomed voters in the 2020 presidential election.
The TCRP said the lawsuit re-emphasized how the Texas Election Code requires a county using countywide polling places on Election Day to operate 50% as many polling places as there are election precincts, of which there are 776.
The TCRP had claimed Bexar County failed to comply with the election code when it originally chose to keep the total number of Election Day voting locations well under 300.
The TCRP said increasing the number of Election Day polling sites not only ensures compliance with state law, but it also protects minority voters.
Joaquin Gonzalez, senior supervising attorney for TCRP’s voting rights program, said ensuring voters have an open polling location close to home is a major way to guarantee the right to vote is safely and easily accessible during voting periods.
“The people of San Antonio are guaranteed a certain number of polling locations under the law, and our success pressuring Bexar County to comply with the Texas Election Code is a win for voters in this area," Gonzalez said in a statement.
TOP co-Executive Director Michelle Tremillo said the Oct. 10 ruling is win for democracy and for more than just Bexar County voters.
"Our democracy is at its healthiest when there is maximum participation at the ballot box so voters can have their voices heard. Adding up to 129 Election Day polling locations will allow for more Bexar County voters to cast their ballot and have a critical say in this election—one where the future direction of our state and communities is at stake,” Tremillo said.
This is the second time in less than three years that the TCRP and the TOP have successfully sued Bexar County over election officers’ decisions regarding polling places. In 2020, the two organizations sued the county, saying Bexar County was required to open 18 additional polling places and post them on their website 21 days before the presidential election.
“After winning two consecutive lawsuits, we hope Bexar County elections officials fully understand that we will not tolerate an infringement on our voting rights and that they must make permanent systemic changes to ensure every voter in the county has the voting access they deserve in each and every election cycle,” Tremillo said.
Originally responding to TCRP’s filing of the recent lawsuit, Bexar County election officials said it takes money, time and resources to secure and properly staff additional polling places.
Gonzalez told Community Impact that Bexar County has had ample time to prepare the resources necessary to secure and staff the legally required polling locations.
“The county brought the problem on itself by failing to follow guidance from a court ruling in 2020 against the county which reached a similar conclusion on the law. Also, if they want to reduce this number, there’s a series of legally required steps that are meant to protect minority voters, such as securing community input on these changes - which they failed to do,” he added.
Bexar County elections officials did not immediately respond to the latest ruling but did say the main election office at 1103 S. Frio St. is staying open until 6 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11 to facilitate the state’s midterm election voter registration deadline of Oct. 11.