Sunday, August 9, 2009

Last Public Hearing On Implementing Voting Centers

Updated: Monday August 10, 2009 @ 11:15PM - see bold text in box below.
Dr. Robert M. Stein of Rice University in Houston spoke to the Site Selection Committee for over an hour during the committee's August 6th meeting. Dr. Stein, a Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science at Rice University, is an expert on urban politics, elections, voting behavior and public policy.

Final Meeting
of the
County Wide
Election Day
Polling Place
Site Selection Committee
Meeting
---------------
Monday, Aug. 10, 2009
7:00pm–9:00pm
Collin College
Preston Ridge Campus
Founders Hall
Shawnee Room F–148
9700 Wade Blvd,
Frisco, TX

(map)
Agenda:
  1. Public Comments
  2. Final Report on
    Proposed Election
    Day Locations
Dr. Stein has extensively researched how Voting Centers affect overall voter turnout behaviors as several election jurisdictions around the U.S. implemented voting centers over the past six years. Dr. Stein's presentation given Site Selection Committee on August 6th can be accessed at these links:
Below (bottom of post) is the list of 63 county wide polling locations identified by the Site Selection Committee as of the committee's Aug. 6th meeting.

However, the Collin County Commissioners, apparently, seeing this as an opportunity to cut the cost of running elections in the county, has reportedly asked the Site Selection Committee to cut the list of proposed November 3, 2009 polling locations from 63 down to 51.

The 12 locations on the chopping block are indicated with an “X” in the left “Cut” column in the table below.

A source close to the planning activity has indicated that the County Commissioner’s Court may vote against forwarding the Countywide Election Day Polling Place Application to the Texas Secretary of State unless the Site Selection Committee agrees to cut 12 Election Day polling locations from the current plan.
Commissioner's Court Judge Keith Self, reportedly, has added an item to the Court's August 10th 9:30 A.M. Monday morning meeting agenda seeking a Court Resolution that the Court will not approve any Site Selection Committee Plan that has more than 51 polling places for Election Day, November 3, 2009. This would be a reduction from the 63 Voting Centers currently under consideration by the Site Selection Committee and a reduction from the 59 polling places used in the comparable November 2007 election. The potential outcome of the Court's Monday morning vote is the rescission of the court's earlier vote to pursue a Collin County Vote Center plan this year.

There appears to be a 3-2 split in the Commissioner's Court on both the issues of polling place reduction and whether or not to continue pursuing the Voting Center trial. The Site Selection Committee is apparently similarly split between keeping the number polling places in a range of 59-63 Voting Centers for the first Voting Center trial-run experience on Nov. 3rd vs. reducing the number of polling places down to 51 Voting Centers, as may be demanded by the Commissioner's Court on Monday morning.
Update: Monday August 10, 2009 @ 1:05PM - The Commissioners Court voted during their session today to require that the Site Selection Committee limit the number of polling places to 57.

Update: Monday August 10, 2009 @ 11:15PM - After an hour of public comment and some short discussion among Site Selection Committee members, the committee voted 5-3 to recommend all 63 locations as vote centers for the November 3, 2009 election. Now it's up to the
Commissioners Court and the County Elections Administrator to decide on if and then how to proceed in submitting a vote center plan and application to the Texas Secretary of State befor the Aug 15th deadline.
Shawn Stevens, the Democratic Party of Collin County Chair and voting member of the Site Selection Committee, said in an interview for this blog,
"In my view, the intent of the concept of countywide voting centers is to make it more convenient for all voters so that more people have an opportunity to vote on Election Day, and of course I support making it more convenient for citizens to vote.

However, there are some that are interested in the voting centers because they perceive it as an opportunity to reduce the number of polling locations on Election Day, which they falsely assume will be a cost savings. The goal of this proposal shouldn’t be to save money, it should be to make it easier for people to vote.

The Site Selection Committee's charge is to recommend how many and where the polling locations are to be, according to the criteria we approve. I intend to recommend to the County Commissioners’ Court that if we do this, we use a maximum number of locations. The Site Selection Committee must be able to make its recommendation without political pressure from the Commissioners’ Court to cut locations because they think it will save money.

However, especially after having heard Professor Stein give his presentation on the studies of voting centers, I have serious reservations about the implementation of voting centers in Collin County for the November 2009 election at all, for numerous reasons.

We have to be mindful of the following:
  1. The extremely compressed time frame we have been given to implement anything (and the Site Selection Committee has not been able to visit locations or even review all of the parking and other characteristics of each proposed voting center);

  2. The unknown potential impact on minority, low-income, and mobility impaired voting populations (with the Voting Rights Act obviously being a related concern);

  3. The huge potential for voter confusion in not only our county due to the back and forth between election schemes between fall elections and the Primary election and any special election for U.S. Senate, but the potential to confuse voters in neighboring counties; and

  4. The extremely high likelihood of voter confusion because we have numerous cities in Collin County that are situated in multiple counties, for instance Dallas, Frisco, and Richardson --and communicating and getting voters to understand who in the area can vote at a voting center and who can’t will be extremely difficult. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Collin County is only one county in the 7th largest media market in the U.S.
Several of these issues can only be solved by implementing the voting centers region-wide instead of just for Collin County. However, instituting voting centers for the entire DFW Metroplex is not allowed under the current enabling legislation, which means waiting until after the 2011 Regular Session of the Texas Legislature that spring. If we put this off until 2011, we would have the time to do this in a careful fashion and not rush into it without looking before we leap. Additionally, we could inform the Legislature about the problems we have been running into so they could take our realizations into account with more carefully considered legislation.”
Dr. Stein, in his presentation to the Selection Committee last Thursday, described Vote Centers as spacious "Big Box" polling place venues like shopping malls, large retail stores (like Fry's Electronics) and even large car dealerships.
Dr. Stein described Vote Centers as voting venues with lots of floor space to accommodate large numbers voters, up to a dozen ePollBook check-in stations to check in voters and a score or more of electronic voting machines. Dr. Stein also said Vote Centers must have convenient access and lots of parking to accommodate the large numbers of voters that concentrate into these "Big Box" voting centers.
In contrast, the Collin County Elections Office has proposed Vote Center locations that are, in the great majority of cases, the same locations that have been traditionally used as precinct polling places. The same schools and libraries that have always had limited parking and limited floor space to accommodate voter lines, voter check in tables and voting machines. The Collin County Elections Office and some of the County Commissioners just want to allocate fewer of these traditional precinct polling places and then call them "Vote Centers" because, as for early voting, Collin Co. voters would be allowed to vote at any of the fewer precinct polling places.

The Site Selection Committee currently plans to meet for a final time on Monday, Aug. 10, 2009 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. (See notice box above) During this final meeting the Site Selection Committee will review and vote on its final Site Selection Report which will be presented to the Commissioners' Court for approval. If the Commissioners vote to approve the Site Selection Plan adopted on Monday evening the plan will be forwarded to the Texas Secretary of State before the August 15th application deadline.
Color Key to Table:
X-Proposed 12 to cut from list in 51 plan
X-Proposed 6 to add back in 57 plan
- Early Voting Locations Used Again On Election Day
(see 'Vote Centers Coming To Collin Co. For Election Day November 3, 2009?' for more details.)

List of 63 county wide polling locations identified by the Site Selection Committee as of the committee's Aug. 6th meeting:

Cut Polling Place Address City

Suncreek United Methodist Church 1517 W. McDermott Dr Allen

Allen Municipal Courts Blding 301 Century Pkwy. Allen

Lovejoy ISD-Spurgin
Administration Building
259 Country Club Road Allen

Texas Star Bank 402 W. White Street Anna

Blue Ridge High School Library 11020 CR 504 Blue Ridge

Celina Senior Center 140 N. Ohio Celina

Mitchell Elementary School 4223 Briargrove Lane Dallas

Renner-Frankford Library 6400 Frankford Road Dallas

Farmersville City Hall 205 South Main Farmersville

CCCC Preston Ridge Campus 9700 Wade Blvd. Frisco

Benton Staley Middle School 6927 Stadium Drive Frisco
XX Liberty High School 15250 Rolater Road Frisco
X Lowry Crossing City Hall 1405 S. Bridgefarmer Rd Lowry
Crossing

Fire Station #7 861 Independence Pkwy. McKinney

Fire Station #5 6600 W. Virginia Pkwy. McKinney

Old Settlers Recreation Center 1201 E. Louisiana McKinney

Scoggins Middle School 7070 Stacy Road McKinney

Country Lane Seniors Community 2401 Country View Lane McKinney
XX Valley Creek Elementary School 2800 Valley Creek Trail McKinney

Collin County Elections Office 2010 Redbud Blvd.,
Ste. 102
McKinney

McKinney Senior Recreation Center 1400 South College McKinney

CCCC Central Park Campus 2200 W. University Drive McKinney

Melissa High School 1904 Cooper Street Melissa

Murphy Municipal Complex 206 N. Murphy Road Murphy

First Baptist Church - Lavon 209 Main Street Nevada

Community ISD Technology
and Conference Center
615 FM 1138 Nevada

Parker Community Center 5700 E. Parker Road Parker

CCCC Spring Creek Campus 2800 E. Spring
Creek Pkwy.
Plano
X Schimelpfenig Middle School 2400 Maumelle Plano
X Carpenter Middle School 1501 Cross Bend Road Plano
X Hendrick Middle School 7400 Red River Drive Plano

Armstrong Middle School 3805 Timberline Drive Plano
X Robinson Middle School 6701 Preston Meadow Dr Plano

PISD Administration Center 2700 W. 15th Street Plano

Haggard Library 2501 Coit Road Plano

Dart Station 1012 16th Street,
Suite 105
Plano

Shepton High School 5505 Plano Pkwy. Plano

Harrington Library 1501 18th Street Plano

Parr Library 6200 Windhaven Pkwy. Plano

Clark High School 523 Spring Creek Pkwy. Plano
XX Sigler Elementary School 1400 Janwood Drive Plano
XX Barron Elementary School 3300 Avenue P Plano

Plano Senior Center 401 W. 16th Street Plano

Douglass Community Center 1111 H Avenue Plano
XX Tom Muehlenbeck
Recreation Center
5801 W. Parker Road Plano

Carpenter Park
Recreation Center
6701 Coit Road Plano
XX Meadows Elementary School 2800 18th Street Plano

Bowman Middle School 2501 Jupiter Road Plano

Fowler Middle School 3801 McDermott Road Plano

Princeton High School 1000 East Princeton Dr Princeton

First Baptist Church - Branch 7011 FM 546 Princeton

Prosper HS Library 300 Eagle Lane Prosper

NSERL - Natural Science
and Engineering Research
Laboratory
875 Synergy Park Blvd. Richardson

Richardson Police Sub-Station 2003 E. Renner Road Richardson

Woodcreek Church 3400 E. Renner Road Richardson

Royse City Middle School (Old) 1400 Bulldog Road Royse City

Cox Elementary School 7009 Woodbridge
Pkwy.
Sachse

Westminster Volunteer Fire Dept. 311 E. Houston Westminster

Weston Community Center 117 Main Street Weston

Seis Lagos Utility District 220 Seis Lagos Trail Wylie

Wylie Municipal Complex 2000 N. Hwy 78 Wylie

Wylie High School 2550 W. Hwy 544 Wylie
X McMillan Junior High School 1050 Park Blvd. Wylie


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