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‘Death of mobile voting’ bill to complicate elections

Wednesday, May 29, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir calls House Bill 1888, which won legislative approval with little fanfare, “the death of mobile voting.”

The legislation requires that each early voting location be open for voters on each and every day that voting is conducted at the main early polling place, and that each location remain open for at least eight hours a day, for all elections held on the November uniform election date. There are exceptions for territories with fewer than 1,000 registered voters if the city or county clerk does not serve as the early voting clerk for the area.

The bill precludes the type of schedule that Travis County has implemented to rotate early polling places for the last several years.

Travis County’s longtime governmental relations officer, Deece Eckstein, explained that “the alleged problem they’re trying to fix is that (some) school districts set up mobile places for bond elections at PTA meetings in the hope that they’ll get everybody to vote for their bond issue, and they want to prevent that kind of voter manipulation.” However, he concluded, “It’s really an anti-voter thing, of course.”

DeBeauvoir was sick at home with strep throat, but told the Austin Monitor, “We call that the ‘death of mobile voting’ bill. I’ve sent a letter to Commissioners Court telling them that a very popular and cost-effective program has been killed – and exactly what we’re going to do about it we don’t know yet. Travis County cannot afford to replace all of those mobile voting locations with permanent voting sites.”

In the past, she said, the county had anywhere between 20 and 60 mobile voting locations for every election.

“We have intentions of getting together in the next couple of weeks to talk about next plans to deal with this wretched injustice,” DeBeauvoir said. She said she was most concerned about rural communities because they do not have a large enough population to justify the expense of a permanent voting location. However, she said, “In Travis County we have more heart than to just abandon them.”

Officials with both the local Republican and the Democratic parties also expressed concern about the impact of the legislation.

Travis County Republican Party Chair Matt Mackowiak said Tuesday, “I don’t know the merits of the bill statewide, but I do know that it’s going to reduce voting in Travis County.” Mackowiak said a lot of mobile voting locations were in Republican areas. “It’s going to be more inconvenient for more voters and that’s never a good thing,” he said, adding that the party would work with Travis County to try to deal with the situation.

Cindy Flint, executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party, said, “It’s tragic for Travis County voters.”

This story has been corrected. The article initially reported that the new law would not apply to March elections, which is incorrect.

Photo by Jay Phagan made available through a Creative Commons license.

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