(Seguin) – Guadalupe County wants to make it even easier and more convenient for voters to cast their ballots on election day.
Guadalupe County Elections Administrator Lisa Adam says her office is currently taking the required steps to apply for the implementation of Vote Centers throughout the county. Adam says a Vote Center is one of the newest ways to make voting available on election day.
"Initially, the reason we think this is a good idea is because it will make it more convenient for the voters. As you said, it will eliminate that showing up at the polls five minutes until seven and realizing you're at the wrong location and that
occurs every election. The Secretary of State has put this program in place that I believe will make things so much more convenient for the voters. They can vote, as long as they're a registered voter in Guadalupe County, at any
Guadalupe County voting location on election day. So it turns election day into something that's as convenient as early voting. We still like our voters to vote early, don't get me wrong, because it's still avoids lines, but it makes it much
easier for those who don't have the option and want to vote on election day. To me, it seems like a win, win situation. The voters are happy, because they can vote anywhere and we're happy because the voters are happy. We think it's a
great idea and we really hope that we have the public support that we need to move forward with this. We hope the Secretary of State approves our application and that we can do this in November and give it a try," said Adam.
Adam says the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved the hosting of a public hearing next week for the adoption of the Vote Centers. She says the state filters in only a few counties at a time.
"We have availability for six counties to try this this time. The counties that have done it before don't need to apply again. They've been successful. So there's six slots for a county our size. We want to get our application in as soon as
possible, because then we know we can plan for November better -- because there is going to be a lot that has to be done. There's going to be a tremendous amount of communication to let the voters know what to expect and we want a
lot of planning logistically on our part because we have no idea where the voters are going to decide to go vote. So that's going to present some challenges as well, because we just don't know and we only have so much equipment and so many people. So there's a lot of planning that has to go into this, but we're very excited about the opportunity to do it and make it successful and hopefully, have the voters love it," said Adam.
Adam says the Vote Center pilot program was first put into place in 2006. She says since that time, she's only heard of positive results.
"Every county that I've talked to that has tried it and I have not talked to all 43 -- every county I've talked has tried it. The voters have loved it. They absolutely loved it. The biggest obstacle they have is that they can't predict where the voters are going to go. That's where the communication has come in and asking the voters to be patient with us for this learning curb, because we have to do a lot of data tracking afterwards. We're going to do exit surveys and will ask the voters some questions that will help us determine -- do we have the right amount of machines and the right people in the right places or do we need to reconfigure before the next election? But so far the response from the counties that have done this has been tremendous," said Adam.
Adam says if approved, the Vote Centers will not immediately eliminate any of the current polling locations. Instead, she says it will provide more insight on how to better serve the voter.
"Our plan as it stands right now, November 2017, we'll have the same locations. As we transition forward with this -- when we do start looking at consolidating locations, which we will eventually -- it's going to be in the locations where we
have so many locations in a close proximity but it's not going to negatively impact any of the voters. We're not going to change the outlying locations where the voters have to drive 15 miles to the next location. That's not our goal. Our goal is if you have a location here and you can see one across the street and they're different precincts and you have 50 people vote at one and 20 at the other -- well maybe we need to consolidate those down into one, but that's down the road. That is not for the first couple of elections unless the data overwhelmingly shows that we can use our resources better somewhere else," said Adam.
Again, Adam is encouraging individuals to speak or share their thoughts on the Vote Centers during a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 27 at the Guadalupe County Courthouse. She says following the public hearing,
the state estimates at least a week before responding to Guadalupe County with an answer.