On September 15, 2015, the Montgomery County Commisioners Court unanimously approved the VAC’s proposal to form a Vote Center Committee to explore the concept of Election Day Vote Centers for Montgomery County (VAC to explore vote center concept… / Commissioners approve committee to explore vote center concept). The Committee will be Chaired by VAC VP Amy Lecocq and will include the Chairman of both political parties in Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Elections Administrator and others as appropriate. The Committee will report back to Court in 2016 in time to become operational for 2017 elections.
Vote Centers would be centrally located throughout the county and unlike precinct-based voting, registered voters would be able to vote at any Vote Center location in the county on Election Day. Vote Centers locations would be close to where people live, work, shop, go to school or otherwise travel/commute on Election Day. The process would be similar to Early Voting, but there would be many more locations in the county. Currently, more than half the ballots are cast in Early Voting, despite the fact there are only 7 polling locations.
The VAC first became aware of the concept of county-wide voting when Woodlands Township Director Gordy Bunch identified it as a solution to voter frustration he witnessed on Election Day in May 2015. Director Bunch stated that 800 voters were turned away from an Early Voting polling location because they were required to vote at their local precinct on Election Day, thus resulting in a chilling effect on voting. The Woodlands Township thereafter unanimously endorsed the Vote Center concept.
The Vote Center plan, established by Texas Secretary of State’s office, requires prior approval. Approximately 30 counties in Texas successfully use Vote Center polling locations (Countywide Voting Centers…). Since the SOS permits the overall number of polling locations to be reduced, Vote Centers provide opportunities for cost savings and consolidation of expertise and equipment at fewer locations. Academic studies have shown increased voter satisfaction with Vote Centers. Since election turnouts vary greatly based on a large number of factors, actual increased voter turnout is difficult to measure, but at least one study has shown an increase in first time or occasional voters by use of Vote Centers.
Amy Lecocq, VP of VAC, Chaired an Advisory Committee working closely with the Montgomery County Elections Office and the county political parties and others to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to use Countywide Polling Locations in the November 2017 elections. However, the Committee was not able to resolve all issues in time to file with the state for the November 2017 elections. The Advisory Committee will continue to pursue the Vote Center concept in Montgomery County.