GATESVILLE — The state approved Coryell County’s application to try a new countywide voting system for the Nov. 5 general election, but changes in where and how votes are cast must be approved by the federal government.
County Tax Assessor/Collector Justin Carothers, the county’s top election official, said county officials received notification of approval in a letter from Secretary of State John Steen on Tuesday.
The new system will trim the number of voting locations from 15 to 11 and will mandate electronic voting, eliminating the paper ballot option.
The proposed changes in polling places and voting method must be cleared by the Justice Department, according to Steen’s letter.
Carothers said he will submit the proposed changes to the department within the next two weeks. It has 60 days to complete its review.
In February, the county commissioners’ court gave Carothers a green light to try the countywide system.
Currently, the countywide plan only applies to general elections, but state Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, introduced legislation to include party primaries.
The bill cleared the House Elections Committee.
Coryell County has conducted joint primary elections in the past, Carothers said, but could not use the countywide system for primaries unless Sheffield’s bill becomes law.
Carothers said if the Sheffield measure does not pass, he would have to reconsider whether to implement the new plan in the general election.
“We do not want to start countywide vote centers in November and then have to go back to precinct voting in March” Carothers said. “I think that would be very confusing for the voters.”
During public hearings on the countywide system, the county Republican Party supported the plan while the county Democratic Party opposed it because it eliminates the paper ballot option, which is used by about 40 percent of Coryell voters.
Some rural voters objected to the elimination of some outlying voting locations. Voting sites eliminated by the plan are the County Road and Bridge Department, First Presbyterian Church, Gatesville Senior Center and Jonesboro Methodist Church.