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County considering consolidation of polling places

Some Lamar County voters may soon find themselves changing where they vote in a proposal under consideration by the Commissioners Court.

Lamar County Courthouse
Lamar County Courthouse

“It passes the common sense test to combine some of these locations,” John Kruntorad told commissioners during Monday’s meeting. The Lamar County Republican chairman, Kruntorad also serves on a committee formed to look at the idea.

The county could save $8,000 to $10,000 for each non-primary election, he estimated.

The county currently has 33 voting precincts. The move would not affect polling locations within Paris to avoid problems with City Council districts, but the committee did find enough boxes to cut the number down to about 20.

At least six workers are needed for each voting location during an election. Having so many is not only expensive and time consuming, but officials often have trouble finding enough people to work poling sites that often do not have many people come through on election day.

There’s a growing trend for people to use mail-in ballots or vote early, Kruntorad said – more than half in the last election.

The consolidated precincts could gain multiple check-in lines to compensate for added people when necessary.

“I like your idea, so long as you make allowances to take care of the people,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Rodney Pollard said.

The plan also seeks to find better polling locations as many current sites have issues with parking or handicap access, especially in the more remote areas of the county, Elections Administrator Russ Towers said.

“One of our chief complaints during voting is people going to the wrong location,” Towers said. “If you have fewer polling locations, you reduce the chances of that happening.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Lawrence Malone pointed out that some may feel they were having to drive too far.

“I sympathize with that, but we’re only asking people to come out and vote a few times a year,” Towers said.

Those who find the distances too great likely drive to town at least once a week, Kruntorad said, which makes it easy to take advantage of the two weeks given for early voting.

Any lines that might be redrawn are combining related voting boxes without crossing major lines, Towers said, which means the changes would not affect any redistricting efforts.

County Judge Chuck Superville asked for a letter from each polling chair, members of the committee and the elections office in support of the measure.

“I want to make sure nobody feels like they’ve been hit with a curveball,” he said.

In other action, the Commissioners Court:

  • Granted permission for Marvin Gorley to use the courthouse foyer Thursday to exhibit a photographic research study entitled “The Importance of Local History Education in Texas Public Schools” as part of his masters of fine arts program.
  • Issued a proclamation declaring March as American Red Cross Month.
  • Approved a resolution naming March 17-23 Poison Prevention Week.
  • Passed a resolution opposing passage of House Bill 958, which would reduce retirement benefits for the Texas County and District Retirement System.
  • Accepted racial profiling reports from the Precinct 1 and 3 constables.
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