WACO (August 12, 2014) McLennan County Commissioners on Tuesday reduced the number of voting sites countywide by almost a third, but say the new plan will encourage more voter participation.
By a vote of 3-to-1, commissioners pared the number of voting sites from 59 to 40 under a plan that will allow registered voters to cast ballots at any location rather than just in their home precincts.
The three commissioners who supported the plan say the move will encourage more voter participation and said that in counties that have already made the change, election turnout has increased.
“I think this will afford an opportunity for people to vote that typically miss out because of working late and not being able to get back to the area that they typically vote in so I think a very positive thing,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson voted against the measure.
He said he thinks residents need more time to understand the new process and he felt the court was rushing to have the issue decided in time for the November General Election.
“The educational process has not been there, so that's one concern,” he said.
“I think the overall plan is good, but I think we rushed it too much,” he said.
Coryell County Judge John Firth said Tuesday his county approved a similar change in time for the General Election in 2013 and said commissioners and voters have been pleased with the outcome.
"I can say I am anecdotally convinced it’s gotten more folks willing to participate" in the process," Firth said.
"It's been extremely well accepted by voters."
The only downside, Firth said, is that voters can no longer request a paper ballot without qualifying for an absentee ballot.
The use of electronic voting machines is necessary to ensure no one votes more than once because voter data are preserved on a county-wide electronic data base that is updated when a voter's number is entered into the system.
That’s why Bell County hasn’t moved to adopt the system, County Judge Jon Burrows said Tuesday.
Burrows said commissioners like the concept, but the county doesn’t use the computerized system used by Coryell and McLennan Counties and the change wouldn’t be supported by the system now in use.