JONESBORO — If a new Coryell County election procedure becomes permanent, some Jonesboro voters will have to travel a little farther to cast their votes.
The new method has been approved by the county commissioners’ court and, pending approval from the Texas secretary of state, will begin with the November election.
The countywide system allows voters to cast ballots at any county polling location, regardless of the voter’s residence. The new system mandates the use of electronic voting machines, eliminating the paper ballot option, and reduces the number of county polling places from 15 to 11.
Jonesboro Methodist Church would be among the four county polling places that would be eliminated. A polling place in nearby Turnersville would remain open under the new plan, which may prove to be convenient for some in-person voters in the community, but local voters would otherwise be left with no county polling place west of Gatesville.
Jonesboro voter Jerry Pool is among those in the community who say the new voting procedure would have a negative impact on local elections and area voters.
“They don’t understand us folks who only go to town once a week or once every two weeks,” Pool said. “There’s a possibility that they’re going to keep some senior citizens from being able to vote. Doing away with paper ballots will do the same, because they’re intimidated by computers.”
Although Pool said that he and his wife normally travel to the Coryell County Courthouse Annex to vote, he said they have voted at the Jonesboro Methodist Church, as well as in Turnersville, in the past.
Although the measure would not prove to be an inconvenience to him or his wife at election time, “it will be for others,” he said.
Another Jonesboro voter, Grady Hill, supports the bill.
“It’s not of much consequence,” he said.
Grady said he and his wife have voted at the Jonesboro Methodist Church location years ago, but he and his wife have been voting by mail-in ballot for some time.
Hill said other Jonesboro voters will likely use mail-in ballots with the closure of the local polling location.
“It looks to me that most people will mail it in. A person that’s committed to a cause will stay committed and want to put in their two cents,” he said.
Coryell County Tax Assessor/Collector Justin Carothers, the county’s top election official, said he expects the county’s application will be approved by the secretary of state.
He plans to try the new system in the November general election.
Under current law, the countywide system can only be used in general elections, but state Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, has introduced a measure to expand the system to include party primaries. The bill is pending in the House Elections Committee.
“If (Sheffield’s) bill doesn’t pass, we will probably take a second look at the countywide system,” Carothers said. ‘If we are not going to be able to do it in March, we may not want to start it in November. It would be too confusing to the voters.”