Elections Administrators discuss who sets voting locations
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Many Brazos County residents had questions after May’s close runoff election. Some of those questions were about mail-in ballots, voting hours and polling locations. Ann Boney with the Brazos County NAACP believes many Black and Brown residents weren’t able to vote because one of the polling locations they use the most, Galilee Baptist Church, wasn’t open on the runoff election day.
“Using that place as a voting place was always convenient for them to walk to and so shutting it down put a major dent in our voter turnout,” Boney said.
Elianor Vessali, Brazos County Republican Party chairman, said polling locations change depending on the type of election being held.
“A lot of people may not be aware, a lot of voters, that the parties, both Republican and Democratic, have a key role in running elections,” Vessali said.
Brazos County election administrators presented about voting locations at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting and said Galilee Baptist Church hasn’t been used for a runoff election since 2014. This is because runoff elections are chosen by the Democratic and Republican party chairs, according to elections administrator Trudy Hancock. Those decisions are based on factors like previous voter turnout at sites.
“This past election was based on historical locations,” Vessali said. “I think that’s a conversation that needs to continue to grow as the county grows.”
As that growth happens, Hancock said more election workers will be needed to staff those locations. Poll staffing has been a continual issue, according to elections coordinator Krystal Ocon and Hancock.
“It takes a minimum of six workers per location,” Hancock said. “In our bigger locations, we have to have more staff to be able to handle the crowd.”
Brazos County commissioners will set the voting locations for both November’s general election and early voting, according to Hancock.
“We’ll be working with the cities and schools on setting up those locations and more than likely, we’ll be using the same ones we’ve historically used unless we add something,” Hancock said.
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