Judge orders Bexar County to add dozens more voting locations around San Antonio for midterms

The county must operate 388 voting centers to comply with state law, Visiting Judge Martha Tanner ruled.

click to enlarge Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio. - Sanford Nowlin
Sanford Nowlin
Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio.
A state district judge has ordered Bexar County to increase its number of polling places by dozens of locations ahead of the midterm elections.

The county, which originally proposed cutting the number of voting centers to 259 from the 302 it operated last federal election cycle, must operate 388 to comply with state law, Visiting Judge Martha Tanner ruled.

"The public interest lies in increased voter participation and following the plain language of the Texas Election Code with regards to the provisions at issue in this case," Tanner wrote in a temporary injunction issued Monday.

The ruling is a victory for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which sued county commissioners on behalf of progressive voter-mobilization group the Texas Organizing Project. TCRP won a similar suit in 2020, forcing the county to reopen voting locations it planned to shutter ahead of the last presidential election.

Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen has argued that Bexar County could get by with fewer polling places because new rules allow voters to cast ballots outside of their precincts. She also argued that the reduction would help her office deal with staffing shortages.

Later, Callanen's office revised its plan, saying it would run 267 voting centers.

However, Tanner ruled that even the upward revision would put the county in violation of the Texas Election Code. Cutting the number of locations would make it hard for TOP and other groups to help those who need assistance to get to the polls, she added. 
"Plaintiff TOP’s members additionally help individuals who lack transportation get to the polls in order to vote," the judge wrote. "These efforts are made more difficult when polling places are closed or are made more distant from the voters."

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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