KEY QUESTION: What is a Countywide Precinct, and what are the eligibility requirements?
MAIN REFERENCE POINT:
Texas Election Code Section 43.007
- Countywide precincts, or vote centers, allow voters the option of voting at countywide polling places on Election Day instead of their assigned precinct polling locations. The countywide polling places pilot program was authorized by the 79th Legislature’s House Bill 758 and then reauthorized by the 80th Legislature’s House Bill 3105. House Bill 719 passed by the 81st Legislature made the program permanent. House Bill 2194 passed by the 82nd Legislature increased the number of counties able to participate.
- The law authorizes the Texas Secretary of State to select six counties with a population of 100,000 or more and three counties with a population of less than 100,000 to participate in each eligible election.
- Eligible counties may apply with the Secretary of State to use countywide polling places in the following elections: the general election for state and county officers, elections taking place on the uniform election date in May, a constitutional amendment election, and a joint election when holding any of the aforementioned elections with a local political subdivision (i.e., city, school district, etc.).
- Counties must meet several requirements including the following minimum conditions:
v exclusive use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems at all polling places;
v implementation of a computerized voter registration list that allows instantaneous verification that a voter has not already voted at another polling place;
v participation in a public hearing if the county has not been involved in one of the previous countywide election precinct programs. This public hearing is to inform and solicit opinions from voters, minority organizations, and other interested parties (e.g., political parties, political subdivisions within the county, and organizations representing voters with disabilities). A transcript or electronic recording of the hearing must be submitted to the Secretary of State. Although not required by statute, the Secretary of State has encouraged counties that have previously participated to conduct a new public hearing.
v adoption of a methodology to determine the placement of the countywide polling places. For an election held in the first year in which the county holds an election under the program, the total number of countywide polling places may not be less than 65 percent of the number of precinct polling places that would otherwise have been used in the last equivalent election. For subsequent elections, this number drops to 50 percent.
- Counties selected to participate in the program must develop a communication plan for providing notice and informing voters of the program and of the changes made to the locations of Election Day polling places that will occur. The county must solicit input from organizations that represent minority voters and voters with disabilities. At a minimum, an Election Day notice indicating the location of the nearest countywide polling place must be posted at each precinct polling place that was used in the last general election for state and county officers but will not be used in the election under this program.
- Each county that previously participated in a program is authorized to continue participation in the program for future elections if:
v the commissioners court of the county approves participation in the program; and
v the Secretary of State determines the county’s participation in the program was successful.
For additional requirements and the proposed schedule for implementing countywide election precincts for the 2012 elections, please go to http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/laws/countywide-precincts-2012.shtml