Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy this week explained to commissioners how voting in Gregg County will work under the Countywide Polling Place Program.
The county must meet multiple requirements and submit different forms to be approved by the Texas Secretary of State to participate in the program. After the second of two public hearings, Nealy said, she would bring the final packet to a future commissioners’ court meeting for the commissioners to approve and submit to the state.
The polling locations will change slightly to move away from public schools and to locations that are better equipped to accommodate disabled voters.
The Gladewater City Hall location will relocate to Gladewater First United Methodist Church.
An advisory committee met three times since February to review polling locations, determine the best way to get information out to the public and to review the finalized list of polling places.
Nealy and the advisory committee members wanted to keep as many polling places as possible.
In Kilgore, the Martin Luther King Community Center voting center will close; Kilgore Community Center and Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center will remain open.
To qualify for the program, the county must have electronic voting machines at every polling location and electronic voter registration that allows the election workers to check-in voters and eliminate the possibility of them being able to go to another polling location to vote a second time.
“You have to be able to instantly produce any ballot at any polling place,” Nealy said about the requirement of electronic voting machines.
She said the county should not need to purchase more voting machines now. Instead she will redistribute the machines as needed.
Voting under the Countywide Polling Place Program will be the same as early voting, in which Gregg County registered voter can cast their ballots at any location in the county.
“We know that this first election is going to be a trial and error,” Nealy said. “We don’t know where people are going to go, so we will adjust those next election if we need to.”
Rusk County already has the same countywide voting program in place.
Election workers will now be free to work anywhere in the county, instead of specifically in their voting precinct. Election workers will still be submitted by the Gregg County Democratic and Republican Party chairs and will be brought to the commissioners for final approval.
The county will also continue to have joint primary elections, and the countywide polling will be in place for that as well.
The information will be posted on the Gregg County elections website (greggcountyvotes.com) and Nealy will consider starting a Facebook page to bring information to younger voters.
“There’s probably a few things that really float to the top of the list of things that are important to us as commissioners, but ensuring the public’s right to vote has got to be on the top of the list, and I have a lot of confidence because of the work you do and the job you do that in Gregg County we’re doing it right,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd said. “Doesn’t mean that things might not occasionally fall through the cracks, that happens because we’re all human, but really appreciate the hard work you do.”