Bexar County must open more Election Day polling sites, judge rules

Flickr / Erik (HASH) Hersman
A Bexar County district judge has ruled that the county's elections department must open 18 additional Election Day voting locations and post all polling sites on its website.

Further, the ruling requires the department to reimplement its volunteer deputy registrar certification program and publicize the new polling locations within 21 days of the election.

Without those changes, the county stands to violate the Texas Election Code, Judge Karen Pozza said in an opinion handed down Monday.

Pozza's ruling came in response to a lawsuit by voter mobilization groups MOVE Texas and the Texas Organizing Project, which argued that the county hadn't done enough to ensure voter access during an election that's likely to inspire record turnout amid a pandemic.

Pozza agreed, saying Bexar County must increase its number of Election Day polling sites from 284 to 302, the same number it operated during the 2018 midterm election. It's not required to expand the number of early voting sites beyond the current number of 48, however.

"Voter turnout is negatively impacted by increasing the time and distance it takes to get to a polling place, as well as voter confusion when locations are closed," the judge wrote. "Voters of color are especially sensitive to and impacted by increased distances."

MOVE Texas Executive Director H. Drew Galloway said other Texas counties have responded by opening additional voting sites, and in some case of Houston's Harris County added drive-through voting.

"This is a moment, because of the pandemic and the situation we're in, where we need to innovate and expand access to the polls in ways we never have before," Galloway said.

Early voting began on Tuesday and will run until October 30. Election Day is November 3.

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