Bexar County elections official defends running lower number of polling places during midterms

Bexar County has approved 267 polling sites, still short of the 302 stations requested by the Commissioners Court.

click to enlarge Bexar County Elections Commissioner Jacque Callanen speaks to reporters during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Bexar County Elections Commissioner Jacque Callanen speaks to reporters during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen during a Wednesday press conference assured voters that the integrity of the county’s elections is “sound” while firing back at demands that her office add more polling places.

The elections department has come under fire from the Texas Civil Rights Project after revealing plans to reduce the number of polling stations across the county for the 2022 midterms.

Callanen said that as of Sept. 14, Bexar County had approved 267 polling stations to operate on election day in November, up from the initial 258 polling stations. Even so, the number of approved polling stations is still a far cry from the 302 sites demanded by the Bexar County Commissioners Court earlier this month.

“It just isn’t as easy to say, ‘OK, we want to be there for Election Day,” Callanen said. “It takes a while. We have to get facility stations, we have to get permission. Some of the stations have to have insurance, and it just goes on and on.”

During the 2020 General Election, a court ordered Bexar County to operate 302 Election Day polling sites after a coalition of progressive groups claimed that the number of polling sites was insufficient and criticized how the voting stations were distributed around the county.

Although receptive to the suggestion, Callanen argues that the current voting center system implemented in 2019 — which allows for Bexar County voters to cast ballots outside of their precinct — renders some polling stations obsolete.

“We’ve had a vote center open, and there were 14 votes all day — 12 hours, one vote an hour,” Callanen told reporters. “We’ve seen sites that have had 25 voters all day. That’s two people an hour. So, the efficiency is that voters are telling us where they want to go.”

Even so, in an email sent to Bexar County Commissioners last week, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, Joaquin Gonzalez, warned the county that failure to resolve community complaints regarding an adequate number of polling stations could lead to further lawsuits similar to the one filed against Bexar County in 2020.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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