Gary O’Connor and I tend to be on opposing sides of almost every political issue. However, I’m predicting our perspectives on precinct consolidation will be more in agreement than opposition.
The 2010 Census reported the population of Lamar County at 49,523 with a land area of 917 square miles. Lamar County currently has 32 voting precincts. If you look at the same information for the 16 Texas counties closest to Lamar in population and geographic size, you find they average a population of 50,598 and 1,111 square miles, but only average 19.4 voting precincts. Of those 16 counties, the highest number of precincts is 24.
Elections cost money. Voting machines and their required verification testing, printed materials and poll workers all cost taxpayers money. For primary elections, the main funding comes from the filing fees paid by the candidates running for office. Any shortfall is made up with taxpayer dollars from the Secretary of State’s office. For general elections, the County Commissioners must fund the entire election cost through their budget.
Not all precinct’s ballot formats are the same due to the non-congruent geographic territories for constables, justice of the peaces and others. Political parties are responsible for conducting primary elections and have the ability to consolidate precinct polling locations with common ballot formats. In the 2016 and 2018 primary elections, both parties consolidated polling locations down to 26 from 32. This reduced the overall cost of the primary elections by nearly 19%.
Every general election day, the county operates 32 polling locations even though nearly half of all votes have already been cast by mail or early voting. We should all press our commissioners to permanently consolidate to 26 precincts and work toward further consolidations by redrawing jurisdictional boundaries of non-county wide offices to be more congruent.
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