Travis County leaders vote to fix unequal voting hours

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AUSTIN (KXAN) –  Few things are more American than casting a vote, and Travis County took action Sunday after people on the east side complained they were being cheated out of voting hours.

Many at an emergency meeting of Travis County Commissioners Court agreed this should not have happened, and that everyone has the right to equal access to cast their ballot. People on the east side complained after polling locations opened later and closed earlier than scheduled.

The hour changes kept people from the polls at the Carver Library and Parque Zaragosa on the East side. A total of four locations were not open for their full hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Even if it’s just one vote at 7 AM, that one vote needs to be able to count,” said Lonnie Limon. He was one who couldn’t vote when he wanted. He’s since been going door to door to get out the vote.

“There are some very important local elections for those who are born and raised here,” said Limon.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says budget cuts caused less hours. But after a city resolution required all locations to have the same hours, city staff literally didn’t get the memo. Poll workers didn’t show up to open the polls. The facilities were not open.

“It is difficult for everyone to keep up with everything that’s going on. We don’t think anyone was being deliberately mean about it. It was a miscommunication,” said Dana DeBeauvoir, vowing to do her part to make it right.

DeBeauvoir says it will cost less than $10,000 from Travis County to open up the locations at full hours.

County commissioners voted unanimously Sunday to pick up the tab to open the polls from 7 am to 7 pm, just like the rest of the County.Those four locations that had shorter hours won’t be like the rest of the county until Thursday. A legally binding 72-hour waiting period will keep those hours short until the last few days of early voting. 

Keeping those hours short had an impact on how high the turnout was in different parts of the county.

This is a snap shot of who voted where, the darker the green the more votes were cast there. The northeast side of the county was way down compared to the other areas.

But then the reaction came. Community organizers went door to door and even walked people to the polls to make sure the east side of town had its voice heard. That area now looks like the rest of the county.

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