Some revolutions start with a shot and others take time to build. In Texas, a slow-building revolution is moving one county at a time to switch the largest state in the lower 48 to a vote center system instead of the traditional precinct-based polling places. Since beginning a pilot program of vote centers nearly a decade ago just over 10 percent of the state’s 200+ counties used vote centers in the most recent statewide election and more are petitioning to make the move. While not willing to call the pilot an outright success because of the still small sample of counties using the system, the secretary of state’s report to the 84th Legislature on the program said anecdotally, vote centers do make easier for voters and elections officials alike.
“However, anecdotal evidence from the participating counties, including feedback from voters and election officials, along with the turnout percentages, suggest countywide election polling places offer a way to ensure that voters who plan to vote in the election have an increased opportunity to do so much as with early voting,” the report said. Tom Green County became a vote center county last year and by all reports things not only went well, but voters were pleased with the new system.
“In November, according to the surveys that were completed and letters provided, the reaction was overwhelming in favor of the vote center environment,” said Vona Hudson, election administrator for the county. “There were some that were not happy that they could not use paper ballots, which by law we cannot have in vote centers. We also experienced some lines at some of the locations that made people unhappy but they were still in favor of the concept. We added a location in May and that proved to be well received. When I see voters in public, I often have feedback from them that they like vote centers.”
Hudson said that the county hasn’t seen a cost savings quite yet from the vote centers because of the need to purchase new equipment, but she is hopeful that in the long run there will be a savings. She also noted that, at least for now, there hasn’t been a decreased need for poll workers because the new process has meant the need to have more help for voters in the polling places, but that too could change over time.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.