November elections will look different in the future for Huntsville voters. Walker County Elections has received approval from the Texas Secretary of State to conduct Countywide Polling Places.
Walker County Election Officer Diana McCrae announced Wednesday, July 22, the County will go from 16 polling locations to 11 with the approval. She explained several poll places could not accommodate the social distancing regulations and had to be moved or consolidated.
“Diana McRae and the Elections staff worked hard earlier in 2020 to apply for the program,” City Secretary Brenda Poe said. “With the current pandemic, it is very important to election officers from all entities to provide adequate social distancing and curbside service while allowing voters to cast their vote at any polling location.”
Walker County held a public hearing during Commissioners’ Court on the program implementation on May 26.
“Safe social distancing will be required. Election workers will sanitize between voters and wear protective face coverings,” McRae said. “Voting equipment will be sanitized as well.”
The deadline to register to vote November 3, 2020, is Monday, October 5. Early voting at the Storm Shelter will be October 19-30. The last day to apply to vote by mail is Friday, October 23. If you qualify and want to apply for a mail ballot, the application must be received in the office by the Elections Office no later than 5 p.m. Friday, October 23, not postmarked.
If a voter is 65 years of age or older on Election Day, has a disability, is confined in jail, or will be outside the county during early voting hours and on Election Day, the voter can apply to vote by mail.
All early voting will take place at the Walker County Storm Shelter, 455 State Highway 75 North, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be two 12-hour days during early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 20 and Tuesday, October 27. There will be one weekend of voting from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, October 24 and 25.
Sample ballots will be posted in late September at www.co.walker.tx.us under Current Elections.
About Countywide Polling program:
Under Section 43.007(i) of the Texas Election Code, the Secretary of State may select six counties with a population of 100,000 or more and four counties with a population of less than 100,000 for participation in the program for an election. The Secretary of State may determine that a county’s participation in the program was “successful” following one election under the program. Once designated as “successful,” that county may continue to use the program for subsequent elections. Note that counties that have previously participated in the program but have not been formally granted a “successful” designation in writing by the Secretary of State, must reapply to use the program for each subsequent election.
Eligible counties may apply to use countywide polling places in the following elections: the primary election and primary run-off election, the general election for state and county officers, elections taking place on the uniform election date in May and any resulting runoffs, a constitutional amendment election, and joint elections when a county is holding any of the aforementioned elections with a local political subdivision (e.g., city, school district, etc.).
How many countywide polling places should my county have?
A: House Bill 1735 (85th Legislature, RS, 2017) adds Section 43.007(m) to the Texas Election Code which requires a county participating in the countywide polling place program to have at least one countywide polling place in each commissioners’ court precinct. Additionally, the number of countywide polling places within a commissioners’ court precinct may not exceed more than twice the number of countywide polling places located in any other commissioners’ court precinct.
In addition to these requirements, during the first year in which a county participates in the program, the total number of countywide polling places may not be less than 65% of the number of precinct polling places that would otherwise be located in the county for that election. After this, that number drops to no less than 50% of the number of precinct polling places that would otherwise be located in the county for that election.
Q: Who determines where the countywide polling places will be located?
A: In an election under the program, a county must adopt a methodology for determining where each polling place will be located. Some factors to consider in this process include the availability of public transportation to a polling location, population size near the polling location, and availability of a suitable building for a polling place. In addition, the establishment of polling places under the program should not result in the dilution of voting strength or representation of any group covered by the federal Voting Rights Act. For this reason, the Secretary of State strongly encourages counties to form vote center advisory committees to obtain feedback on voting locations.