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Elections and Voter Information

Voter Information

Countywide Election Precinct Program 2012

To: County Clerks/Elections Administrators in Counties Using Only DRE Voting Equipment
From: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn, Interim Director of Elections
Date: December 9, 2011
RE: Opportunity to Use Countywide Election Precincts Polling Places in Countywide Elections Held on May 12, 2012 and November 6, 2012 Uniform Election Dates

This memorandum is to remind you of the availability of the countywide election precinct polling place program (“the program”) for the May 12, 2012 and November 6, 2012 election dates.  Briefly, the deadline to submit your proposed plan (see further details about plans below) to participate in the countywide program for the May 12, 2012 elections is Wednesday, February 29, 2012.  If you are interested in participating or if you need more information, please contact Paul Miles or call our office toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.

Background

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.  Collin, Erath, Floyd, Gaines, Galveston, Lubbock, Midland, and Travis Counties conducted elections using countywide precincts on the most recent November 2011 uniform date.  

Eligible counties may apply to use countywide polling places in the following elections:  the general election for state and county officers, elections taking place on the uniform election date in May, a constitutional amendment election, and a joint election when holding any of the aforementioned elections with a local political subdivision (i.e., city, school district, etc.).  

Minimum Requirements

A county must meet the following minimum requirements:  (1) exclusive use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems at all polling places; (2) implementation of a computerized voter registration list that allows instantaneous verification that a voter has not already voted at another polling place; and (3) if the county has not participated in one of the previous countywide election precinct programs, it must hold a public hearing to inform and solicit opinions from voters, minority organizations, and other interested parties (e.g., political parties, political subdivisions within the county, and organizations representing voters with disabilities).  A transcript or electronic recording of the hearing must be submitted to the Secretary of State.  Although not required by statute, we encourage counties that have previously participated to conduct a new public hearing.

In addition, counties selected to participate in the program must adopt a methodology to determine the placement of the countywide polling places.  For an election held in the first year in which the county holds an election under 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 have been used in the last equivalent election.  For subsequent elections, this number drops to 50%.

Communication Plan Required

A selected county must also develop a plan for providing notice and informing voters of the program and of the changes made to the locations of election day polling places that will occur.  The county must solicit input from organizations that represent minority voters and voters with disabilities.  At a minimum, an election day notice indicating the location of the nearest countywide polling place must be posted at each precinct polling place that was used in the last general election for state and county officers but will not be used in the election under this program.  A county’s plan to participate in the program must address how the county will handle the following issues:

First, participation in the program represents a change in voting that must be precleared with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.  DOJ will review the proposed number and locations of the countywide precinct polling places to determine whether they could have any discriminatory effect on the basis of race or language group.

Second, local political subdivisions may hold a joint election with a participating county.  State law requires local political subdivisions using the November uniform election date (excluding municipal utility districts located within Harris County or counties bordering Harris County) to use the regular county polling places in the county election precincts that contain territory from their elections.  Political subdivisions in participating counties would need to have a presence at each of the countywide polling places at which its voters would be eligible to appear, either through a joint election with the county or establishing its own polling place at each of the locations.  Counties that wish to participate in the program will need to demonstrate that the details of local joint elections have been resolved or at least that the governing bodies have agreed that they will resolve such issues.

Third, while Section 43.007 does not explicitly address the question, we believe that the election officials at each of the countywide polling places for elections held on the November general election for state and county officers would need to be appointed according to the same list procedure as Election Day judges and clerks to the extent possible.  Again, counties that wish to participate in the countywide program will need to demonstrate that the county commissioners court and the county chairs have resolved how polling place officials will be appointed.  

Finally, Section 43.007(j) requires the Office of the Secretary of State to file a report with the Legislature concerning the countywide program, including a recommendation on the future use of countywide precinct polling places not later than January 1st of each odd-numbered year.  All counties that participate in the program will be expected to contribute their specific findings after each election held with countywide precincts, which will be included in the report.  The report pertaining to the November 2009 and 2010 elections has been filed with the Legislature and can be found online.

Below are the schedules for implementing countywide election precincts for the May 12 and November 6, 2012 elections.

Proposed schedule for implementing countywide election precincts for May 12, 2012 election:

Proposed schedule for implementing countywide election precincts for November 6, 2012 election: