An open letter to Texas Sec. of State in opposition to fewer polling locations in Grayson County

July 24, 2013

An open letter to:
Texas Secretary of State John Steen

P.O. Box 12060
Austin, Texas 78711-2060

Reducing the number of polling locations in Grayson County would make voting more difficult for those whose usual polling place is no longer there. Rather, we must do what we can to encourage more people to vote. The population of Grayson County has increased by 12% in the last 10 years and is predicted to continue to increase. We need more, not fewer, voting places.

Recognizing Texas ranks last among all states in voter turnout, any reduction in polling sites can be viewed as a step backward in promoting voter rights and turnout. Further, reduction of polling sites is known to be a Republican Party strategy to disenfranchise voters. Such tactics are dirty partisan politics.

Reducing the number of polling locations in Grayson County possibly violates agreements made by the State of Texas to receive money allocated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). From 2005 to 2010, the Help America Vote Act granted $928,000 to Grayson County.  http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/hava/county-distribution.shtml

Reducing the number of polling locations from 54 to 22 was not an intention of HAVA. Is Grayson County in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law?  The law specifically lists as possible good uses of the funds:

Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places…Title I, Sec. 101 (b)(1)(G)
http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/workflow_staging/Page/41.PDF

US Election Assistance Commission, established by the Help America Vote Act, http://www.eac.gov, recommends that counties:

“…ensure that the locations are accessible and convenient…”

“Work to obtain access to existing GIS data base information to determine locations…

Contact area city planning departments to review future use and zoning maps to determine where and what type of future growth is expected within the next election cycle. Periodically review new occupancy permits to assist with population density projections. Example: It is important to know when and where large apartment complexes are scheduled to be constructed as it may require additional polling places to efficiently serve the voters.

Conduct a public hearing to gain input and approval of the vote centers and early voting locations. Be sure to invite members of the major political parties.

Consider merging the data collected on all possible locations with your county’s GIS computer system. By merging voter registration and “expected to vote” numbers by precinct with the GIS data, you are able to visually locate buildings that are within close proximity to precincts and voters and with sufficient capacity to serve the number of voters expected on Election Day.” *

Texas state law requires testing voting machines, hardware and software, to federal standards, but does not require Federal Certification. Reducing the number of polling locations using uncertified systems is unwise at best. http://www.eac.gov/testing_and_certification/testing_and_certification_program.aspx

I urge you to deny approval of the request from the Grayson County Commissioners to reduce the number of polling locations from the current 36 to 22.

Sincerely,

Barbara Rush

*http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Page/Quick%20Start%20Guide%20-%20Polling%20Places%20and%20Vote%20Centers.pdf

Submitted to Texas Secretary of State John Steen, July 24, 2013
Published in the Sunday Herald Democrat, July 28, 2013
and North Texas E-News, July 27, 2013,
http://www.ntxe-news.com/artman/publish/article_84335.shtml