State Gives Bexar County the Go-Ahead for Vote Center Model

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A long line of voters forms outside of Ed Rawlinson Middle School, a polling site.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A long line of voters forms outside of Ed Rawlinson Middle School, a polling site in North San Antonio during the November elections in 2018.

The Secretary of State approved Bexar County’s adoption of the vote center model Friday for the upcoming November election, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen told county commissioners Tuesday.

The November election will serve as the “soft rollout” for the vote center model, Callanen said. Vote centers allow voters to cast ballots at any location in Bexar County on Election Day. The county previously used the precinct model, under which voters were required to cast ballots at their specific precincts on election day.

“When we do publication [of voting locations], we’ll have Vote Center 1, VC 2, VC 3, and addresses listed,” Callanen said. “No longer are we precinct-driven.”

Callanen said she expected people to get used to the new model after a complete election cycle. The Elections Department plans to start its advertising push after Oct. 1 to allow people enough time to hear about and understand the new voting model.

“I think that will take a little assistance to get the word out,” she said.

This year’s Nov. 5 Election Day will feature 10 constitutional amendments on the ballot, and turnout is expected to be low. However, county election officials view the election as an important dress rehearsal for the November 2020 presidential election.

Commissioners approved renewing the county’s contract with VOTEC for $239,668 to manage the county’s database of 1.1 million voters. The move was routine, Callanen said, as the Elections Department has used VOTEC software for more than 10 years.

Commissioners also officially OK’d using county dollars to purchase 70 additional vote machine scanners, which they approved in August. The equipment will ensure that all 320 voting locations will be open for voters on Election Day. Commissioners asked Callanen to increase voting locations from the originally planned 260 to more than 300 voting sites after interest groups said they were concerned that fewer voting locations might disenfranchise voters.

Commissioners also voted to allow the county clerk to sell hunting and fishing licenses through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, set the Bexar County Hospital District ad valorem tax rate, and approved the county’s proposed 2019-2020 budget at their Tuesday meeting. The final budget was not available immediately Tuesday.

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