Judge Orders Bexar County, Texas To Operate 129 Additional Polling Places
UPDATE: On Oct. 18, Bexar County announced that it came to an agreement with the plaintiff to operate 302 polling locations on Election Day.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Oct. 10, a judge ordered Bexar County, Texas, to operate a minimum of 388 polling locations on Election Day this November — 129 more locations than the county had initially planned. This decision comes after the Texas Organizing Project filed a lawsuit against Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff and multiple Bexar County commissioners challenging the Bexar County Elections Department’s decision to close numerous polling locations for the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. In the complaint, the plaintiff argued that the county’s reduction in polling locations from 302 sites in 2020 to 267 sites in 2022 and the defendants’ failure to “operate a legally sufficient number of polling places on Election Day” violated the Texas Election Code. The plaintiff asserted that the Texas Election Code mandates that “[t]he total number of countywide polling places may not be less than . . . 50 percent of the number of precinct polling places that would otherwise be located in the county for that election” and alleged that Bexar County did not meet this threshold. The plaintiff ultimately claimed that in accordance with this state law, Bexar County should have a minimum of 388 polling locations amongst its 776 precincts. The lawsuit noted that although the county can combine precincts under narrow circumstances related to redistricting, there are no legitimate reasons to justify combining any of Bexar County’s precincts for the upcoming November election.
In today’s order granting the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary injunction, the judge concluded that the “[d]efendants [must] adopt a methodology for choosing countywide polling locations that, absent a lawful combination of election precincts by the Commissioners Court, includes operating a minimum of 388 Election Day polling locations on November 8, 2022 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.” The judge also acknowledged the concerns raised by the plaintiff regarding how a reduction in polling locations would disproportionately harm minority voters since these voters will be burdened by having to travel further distances in order to get to their polling places and may be less likely to turn out to vote as a result. Specifically, the judge ordered Bexar County to “solicit the input of persons or organizations representing minority voters in adopting its methodology for choosing countywide polling locations by holding at least one public hearing to which such persons or organizations are invited, as required by” Texas law. This decision is a major victory for Texas voters who reside in the state’s fourth-largest county, which is also home to San Antonio. In response to this victory, Michelle Tremillo, the co-executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, stated that “[a]dding 129 Election Day polling locations will allow for more Bexar County voters to cast their ballot and have a critical say in this election — one where the future direction of our state and communities is at stake.”