Travis County finalizing plan for five mega voting centers

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Clerk’s Office, tasked with executing a presidential election during an unprecedented pandemic, is working to finalize five mega polling centers for early voting and Election Day in November.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said five mega voting centers will be among 35 early voting sites, which begins Oct. 13. The locations of the early voting sites will not be released until after being presented to the Travis County Commissioners Court for approval.

“Those centers have lots of room, lots of voting booths, lots of staff, so we can handle if a line of voters forms; it’s still going to move very quickly,” DeBeauvoir said.

The mega polling centers will be open until 9 p.m. on the final three days of early voting.
DeBeauvoir said the county has been transitioning away from using schools as polling locations for the past several years, though school facilities do provide ideal space for social distancing.

Austin Independent School District facilities were utilized for the July runoff but may not be available for the general election, because the district plans to resume in-person education before early voting begins. An Austin ISD spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about election plans.

Last week, Harris County partnered with the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, for the upcoming election. Bexar County followed with the AT&T Center, as did Dallas County with the American Airlines Center.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a lawsuit against Harris County on Monday over the county’s plan to send mail-in ballot requests to nearly every registered voter in the county.

“What better place to vote in a socially distanced manner than a huge arena that has extremely wide corridors and just no shortage of space?” said Chris Hollins, the county clerk in Harris County.

The Erwin Center in Austin is closed due to the pandemic and won’t be used in this election cycle, DeBeauvoir said. The Travis County Clerk’s Office is working with the commercial real estate industry to find additional polling sites with the goal of 200 locations for the November general election.

“Office buildings that are empty, because everybody is working from home are perfect for us,” DeBeauvoir said.

Early voting was extended from Oct. 13 – 30 because of the pandemic. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5. Requests to vote by mail must be received by Oct. 23.

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