Citizens Polling Location Committee makes progress ahead of election season

“It’s all about making sure voices are heard”
KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:51 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Polling locations have been a polarizing topic in the 88th Texas Legislature in Austin and right here at home. Now, one group is trying to make the process easier.

In February, Brazos County Commissioners unanimously voted for the creation of a citizens committee to consider locations for future voting areas. Officials say the committee is the first of its kind since the county switched to voting centers in 2014.

On Wednesday, committee members came together for a meeting; to figure out where you’ll make your voice heard next election.

Irma Pineda was born and raised in Bryan. Now as President of the Hispanic Forum, she sits on the new citizens polling location committee.

“It’s a small-town feel, but we’re growing a lot. I love the growth that’s going on in the community and the activism,” said Pineda. “I was glad to join because it’s a non-political committee. I feel like we can all share our voice, our thoughts on how to move this community.”

Wednesday was the committee’s second meeting and Pineda said she has already felt progress being made.

“I feel like sometimes we’re underrepresented with being such a high Hispanic population in this area. We always want to encourage people to vote, not make it harder,” said Pineda. “It’s all about making sure voices are heard. But, I’ve learned a lot in the meetings we’ve had about all of the requirements of voting places. There’s a lot of ADA specifications to be met. "

“We do have some current locations with minor compromises with their ADA requirements,” said Trudy Hancock, Brazos County Elections Administrator. “We just have to go back to them and see if they’ll accommodate and if not, we can’t have a polling location there. People don’t realize how far you have to look into a location. But we have time to fix those compromises. We hope it works out.”

Hancock said most of her concerns as far as ADA requirements come with parking issues and making sure everything was disability accessible. The ADA survey looked over on Wednesday was preliminary. They will dive deeper into issues when they have more information.

The second item on the agenda surrounded early voting locations.

“It was up to Commissioner [Nancy] Berry and yes, we will be adding the Memorial Student Center back to early voting. Remember, there are a couple of bills in legislation right now that would affect college campuses,” said Hancock. “One is to completely do away with college campus voting and the other is to mandate that there is a polling location on college campuses.”

According to the discussion within the meeting, the committee would like to take away the College Station City Hall and Santa Teresa Catholic Church as early voting locations.

Galilee Missionary Baptist Church was also brought up during the early voting discussion due to concerns about meeting all of the ADA requirements.

The final item was looking at Election Day. Hancock said their main focus was to make the best use of all polling locations.

“Texas A&M College of Medicine and Fellowship Freewill Baptist will are both in the same voting precinct,” said Hancock. “We have to do away with one of those voting locations. Fellowship Freewill Baptist has been a long-time voting place and draws big turnout. Texas A&M College of Medicine doesn’t have near the turnout. We want to serve the most voters, so Texas A&M College of Medicine will be dropped off the list.”

Hancock said the committee aims to provide a reasonable and accessible list for all Brazos County residents.

“It’s not feasible to think we could have a town hall meeting and take everyone’s input. So, being able to have representatives from main groups in our community is really helpful,” Hancock said. “But, remember everything we do here is just recommendations. It’s the commissioners who decide if this goes through.”

The committee will continue to finetune their list before they give it to Commissioners in July, in time for the November election.

Brazos County will not be participating in a May election.