Waco, TX – For eight years, Kathy VanWolfe (Elections Administrator) has been working to advance McLennan County’s voting process, and last night at the courthouse, she performed one of the final steps required in order to alter voting locations according to the Voting Rights Act.
VanWolfe presented her plan to the public, recapping the process of going from 59 to 40 locations (10 locations in each county precinct). Her presentation included slides showing which locations were kept and which removed. She discussed the need to educate the voters and unveiled an unprecedented plan to mail 73,000 voters in McLennan County with informative pamphlets outlining the new Voting Center locations, among other things.
While some felt reducing the number of voting locations may disenfranchise some voters, others felt more would be able to vote, since Voting Centers will allow any McLennan County voter to vote at any Voting Center in the county. That means a resident of Riesel who works in Waco, can swing by on their lunch break and vote, rather than rushing home to vote.
As is customary with public hearings, the public gets to speak and share their perspective. A few ladies approached the microphone, and questioned the need to implement the Voting Centers now, at this election. They kept questioning whether VanWolfe was capable of properly educating the public on the Voting Center process. Van Wolfe responded by saying, “We’ve been working on this for eight years, and we could keep talking about it, or we could do it. We’re ready…and everything is in place to move forward.”
Others came to the microphone, many election judges, and complimented VanWolfe on her efforts to modernize and streamline the voting process in McLennan County. VanWolfe recounted what it was like in the Elections Office when she arrived. She reminded the people that when she began, in 1996, things were very rudimentary and inefficient. She also talked about the steady progression from going to electronic ballots and the need to constantly upgrade to stay compliant with election law.
None of the Commissioners spoke on the issue. They had already pre-approved their reductions in their precincts and appeared to be in favor of the move to reduce polling locations during the General Election.
Tony Abad, Republican Candidate for County Commissioner Precinct 2 (Lester Gibson’s Precinct) was there and spoke in favor of the Voting Centers stating, “Anywhere in the county, you can go to any of the 40 Voting Centers and you can vote on Election Day.”
VanWolfe mentioned the need to educate the people, encouraging organizations and leaders in the community to help spread the word. For Tony Abad, that includes sending the message to both English and Spanish speaking voters. Fortunately for Tony, He’s fluent in Spanish and had this message for the residents of McLennan County.