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AISD fails to acquire additional voting sites

Thursday, October 5, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

Travis County has denied a request from the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees for additional mobile early voting sites during this year’s bond election.

In a Sept. 27 memo to County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir explained that the deadline for additional site requests had passed. On Sept. 8, the county advised its joint election contract partners, including AISD and 17 other participating entities, that they could make those requests during ballot proofing on Sept. 12, but no later.

“We are no longer able to make modifications to ballots and polling locations without significant risk to the security of the election process,” DeBeauvoir wrote in the memo.

DeBeauvoir continued that adding new locations would pose significant logistic and security problems, and relocating current mobile stations would disrupt the “geographic balance that (the county) strive(s) to achieve in situating polling locations.” The county has approved 23 polling stations that will be open for the entirety of early voting, as well as dozens of mobile locations that will only be open during limited hours.

At the AISD board’s Sept. 25 meeting, Trustee Amber Elenz had asked that the item approving polling stations be pulled from the consent agenda in order to explore the possibility of reaching more of the community. The ballot this fall includes the $1.05 billion bond for school facility repair and modernization.

“Since this is a bond for our schools, I think it’s really important for us to have access to voting sites at the schools,” said Trustee Yasmin Wagner at the meeting.

As part of its contract with the county, the district is permitted to ask for extra polling locations at the cost of $1,560 per location, per day (if the request is made on time). Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Oversight Director Edna Butts said at the meeting that AISD had budgeted $600,000 for election expenses.

The last time there was a school bond election in 2013, the district spent $681,575, although that election was in May of that year.

Wagner suggested a list of 19 schools, which she said covered every corner of the district, proposing that the mobile voting site spend half a day at each school over the early voting period. Following the county’s decision, Wagner told the Austin Monitor that she had suggested the list because it felt like there were not as many places to vote as usual this election. “It felt like there wasn’t enough access,” she said.

The school board unanimously approved the amended order. The district has never requested additional early voting sites in the past, according to Butts.

In 2013, 10.25 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, passing two of the four propositions in that school bond. This year, the board has decided not to split the bond into propositions, but to put all proposed projects into one package that the public will either completely accept or reject.

The official election date is set for Nov. 7. Early voting begins Oct. 23.

Photo by Keith Bacongco ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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