|TO:||County Clerks/Elections Administrators|
|FROM:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|DATE:||June 23, 2010|
|RE:||Opportunity to Use Countywide Election Precincts in Countywide Elections Held on November 2, 2010|
Counties interested in participating in the countywide election precinct program (the “Program”) for the November 2, 2010 election should notify the Texas Secretary of State’s Office of their intent. If your county is interested in participating in the Program for the November 2, 2010 uniform election or if you need more information, please contact Shameika Franklin or toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.
As you may recall, House Bill 719 was passed during the 81st Legislative Session and represents a continuation of the countywide election precinct programs conducted in 2006 and 2008.
The Program is permanent rather than a temporary pilot, with limitations added as to eligibility requirements and the number of participants. The Secretary of State may select three counties with a population of 100,000 or more and two counties with a population of less than 100,000.
Participating counties may use countywide polling places in the following elections: the general election for state and county officers, a countywide election that takes 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.). Counties must make separate applications for each election date.
A county must meet the following minimum requirements in order to participate: (1) have exclusive use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems at all polling places; (2) have implemented 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 pilots, 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 that 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 the 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 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 conducting 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 House Bill 719 does not explicitly address the question, we believe that the election officials at each of the countywide polling places 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 Program will need to demonstrate that the county commissioners court and the county chairs have resolved how polling place officials will be appointed.
Finally, House Bill 719 requires the Office of the Secretary of State to file a report with the Legislature concerning the Program, including a recommendation on the future use of countywide polling places on January 1 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.
Below is the proposed schedule for implementing countywide election precincts on the November 2, 2010 uniform election date this year.
- Wednesday, July 14, 2010-Deadline to provide notice of intent to participate to the Secretary of State.
- Tuesday, August 3, 2010-Selected counties must submit plan for the Program to Secretary of State by this date.
- Tuesday, August 10, 2010-Deadline for SOS to approve proposed local plans for the program and provide detailed guidance on the information that will be requested from the Secretary of State and that will be included in the final report after each election held under the Program. The counties will be required to submit this information to the Secretary of State no later than 30 days after the election.
- Thursday, September 2, 2010-Deadline for selected counties to submit local countywide Program for preclearance with DOJ if countywide election precincts will be used at November 2, 2010 general election.
- Thursday, December 2, 2010-Deadline for county clerk/elections administrator to submit report on local countywide Program to Secretary of State.
- Saturday, January 1, 2011-Deadline for Secretary of State to submit report on countywide program to Legislature.
Application Form (PDF 43k)