Voters in Dallas and Tarrant counties will continue to be able to vote at any polling place in their counties.
The Texas Secretary of State's office notified both counties last week that they had been granted permission to continue participating in the state's countywide voting program. The program allows voters who are registered in participating counties to cast their ballots at any polling site in the county, rather than at a single assigned precinct.
Both counties offered countywide voting as a trial run during the state constitutional amendment election in November. After the November election, officials in both counties sent reports to the state requesting further approval of the program.
Dallas County commissioners applied to participate in the program last spring, after county staff said it could streamline the voting process, reduce the number of voters casting provisional ballots and encourage increased voter turnout.
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"It is time to come into the 21st century and have an election system that actually works," Commissioner Elba Garcia said at a meeting last March. "The main point about vote centers is that we have people, over 3,000 people, that wanted to vote during the last election and they were not able to do it. Voting centers bring that to the table. It's time to make sure that anyone who wants to vote is able to go and vote in the right place without any problems."
Before being allowed to participate in the program, Dallas County had to upgrade its voter check-in system. That system now requires that voters check in on a cloud-connected tablet that has data service from two providers, in case one provider experiences an outage.
Voter turnout in Dallas County was up somewhat last November over the state constitutional amendment election in 2017, records show. In the November 2017 election, 6.52% of voters registered in Dallas County turned out to vote. Last November, that figure jumped to 9.56%, according to the secretary of state.
Anyone looking to vote in the March 3 primary election must be registered to vote by Feb. 3. Early voting begins Feb. 18.