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Dallas County consolidates voting locations for May, hoping to avoid problems for voters

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Bret Jaspers
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KERA News
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price objected to closing any voting sites in his district, which curves from Cedar Hill to Sachse and includes southern Dallas.

Dallas County commissioners voted to close almost 40 voting locations for elections next month to deal with an ongoing shortage of workers. That shortage led to problems for people trying to cast ballots in the statewide primary.

The closures account for less than 10% of the total. The slimmed-down roster of locations will be in place for local elections on May 7th and a state runoff on May 24th. The plan will stay in place for any local runoffs in June.

In November, the county will return to a full complement of polling sites.

Officials were worried about finding enough workers to run over 400 sites with the curbside voting service that’s available to people with disabilities. Some residents in the county waited hours to vote curbside on primary day last month. Dozens of election judges — who run the polling sites — didn't show up two days before the election to pick up equipment.

Now the county must communicate the changes with the voting public. Elections Director Michael Scarpello wants to remind people the county uses a “vote center” system, which means you can vote anywhere that’s open.

“We need to do a better job of saying, yes, you can vote anywhere at any time, and here’s how you find out which locations,” he told commissioners on Wednesday.

He said his department is vetting the idea of contacting voters who used the now-closed locations to advise them to not show up there.

No sites will close in District 3, which curves from Cedar Hill to Sachse and includes southern Dallas. That’s because Commissioner John Wiley Price, who represents the district, objected to closures there.

“They tend to go where they have traditionally gone,” Price said of voters in his district, especially older ones. He worried voters who were accustomed to visiting a specific location would be discouraged from voting if that site were closed.

Dallas County resident Wes Bowen, who said he served as a Republican election judge in the past, praised the plan. He told commissioners that one of the purposes of a vote center system is to save money.

“I think we do have a responsibility to use our tax dollars wisely,” he said. Having low-turnout locations was “not being good stewards of the county’s money.”

Scarpello said he consulted with the county Republican and Democratic Parties, cities, and two citizen advisory committees in choosing which voting locations to close for May. Anytime an objection was raised to closing a particular site, they left it open, he said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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