Dallas County's elections office isn't easily accessible to voters without a car
Kenneth Williams was trying to file his paperwork to certify that he's a volunteer deputy registrar in Dallas County for the upcoming 2024 elections when he ran into a problem: he couldn't reach the county's elections office using Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
Using DART's bus planner, Williams took Route 222, got off and tried using DART's GoLink service to no avail. A DART representative told him that the office isn't within any of the agency's GoLink service zones and the nearest bus stop is nearly a mile away.
Eventually Williams, who frequently uses DART, hailed a car using rideshare service.
"There are a lot of people in Dallas County that don't have cars, they have a right to vote," Williams told the DART board of directors at a meeting in January. "Not having accessibility to this important location is going to have an impact on many of the people who live in Dallas County."
For prospective voters who rely on public transportation — especially those who face mobility challenges — getting to Dallas County's elections office isn't an easy task, and can in some cases hinder access to fully exercising the right to vote.
For example, if a voter is purged from the voting roll and they want to prove they can vote, they have to visit the office in person. Not having an accessible bus route or service also makes it difficult for some voters who vote by mail.
Williams told KERA that voters and volunteers like him need improved access.
"In the county of Dallas, as large as it is, the only drop box where you can drop off a mail-in ballot is the Dallas County Elections department," Williams said. "So if you want to vote, your right is somewhat constrained."
A spokesperson for the Dallas County elections department confirmed that the office is out of reach for some voters.
"We do get occasional calls [from] people, kind of trying to find their way down here and discovering, 'hey, there's not actually a bus route,'" said Nicholas Solorzano, the department's communications manager.
Solorzano admitted that the department's current office at 1520 Round Table Drive isn't as accessible to voters and even some employees as its previous location off of Stemmons Freeway. The department moved to its current location in 2020.
"I think Mr. Williams made a really good point," Solorzano said. "What if I have to do other business we have with the department, or if I want to register, or if I wanna drop off a mail ballot application? Any of those things, we don't really have a service here for it."
Jeamy Molina, chief communications officer for DART, told KERA that the agency is working with Dallas County's elections department to provide shuttle service to polling locations, as well as the elections office.
She said the service has been in place for at least the past couple of years.
"We know how important it is for voters and citizens across the county to make sure that they can get to their voting locations," Molina said.
Williams said he has gotten a response from DART about his concerns and was told that there's a plan to move the bus route closer to the elections office. Molina confirmed that the agency is planning to address service changes this summer.
But DART told Williams that the service changes may not go into effect until September, cutting it close to the voter registration deadline for the 2024 general elections in early October.
"It won't give folks a whole lot of time to, you know, use the changed service in support of this election year," Williams said. "Not if you're talking about people registering and that sort of thing."
Solorzano said the department will keep in touch with DART over its service changes.
"We're just kind of hoping that come September, we'll be reincorporated into the bus route," Solorzano said.
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