October 1, 2019
Commissioner Devan Allen Statement on Colleges and Universities
Serving as Early Vote Polling Locations
“At this week’s court meeting I voted to oppose the proposed list of early voting locations because UT Arlington was not considered as a possible location for the 2019 November Election.
In preparation for the Primary and General Elections, in March and November 2020 respectively, those polling locations have not yet been determined. I will work closely with the Elections Administration and my colleagues to ensure increased access to voting for our community, including students, faculty and staff of college and university campuses. This will include engaging more voices in the process when draft lists are presented by the Elections Administration and certainly before the Commissioners Court makes any final decisions.
Determining permanent polling locations, at sites historically, temporarily or otherwise used, through the Early Voting period could be at an increased cost to county taxpayers and this is a significant factor I remain sensitive to. However, if not considering or eliminating our college and university campuses as polling locations leads to disenfranchising even one voter, it is more than worth our collective efforts and resources to finding a solution to including or maintaining these locations. Every voice must be heard in our democratic process.
I’ve had recent discussions with Dr. Vistasp Karbhari, president of UT Arlington and Dr. Bill Coppola, president of Tarrant County College Southeast campus, and both have expressed a willingness to providing access at their respective campuses in the 2020 elections. I will continue to work with the many stakeholders whose participation is necessary so that all registered Tarrant County voters have the ability to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
Last Tuesday, at the September 24th Commissioners Court meeting, I asked to table the vote on the draft list of the Early Voting polling locations schedule proposed for the November 2019 Election. I made this request in order to have a deeper discussion about college campuses, such as UT Arlington located in the precinct that I represent, that was not included on the draft schedule presented by our Elections Administration department.
In gathering additional information it was made apparent that certain locations, such as UT Arlington and others, are considered temporary locations and have historically only been used during even year elections, such as in 2014, 2016 and 2018 and not used on odd year elections, such as 2017 or in the upcoming 2019 November Election.
But just because these locations have not been historically used during odd numbered year elections does not mean we should not consider using them in the future.
Unfortunately, state lawmakers in Austin passed HB 1888, which became effective September 1, 2019, changed the requirements for the use of temporary polling locations for all November Elections. In the past, many college campuses across Tarrant County served as temporary locations in, meaning they were open for certain days and hours specific to that particular location but not open for the entirety of the Early Voting period as required for permanent polling locations. The state legislature’s action sadly limited our ability to use temporary locations moving forward.
While the County administers elections in partnership with political parties, municipalities and site locations, we cannot control the availability of every site nor can we require a site location to serve as a polling location if not practicable, especially if it is owned by a private business or entity. We must still make every effort to meet the voters where they are.
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