You can now vote at any polling location in Hidalgo County during early voting and on Election Day. Hidalgo County successfully applied for the “Countywide Polling Place Program” with the Office of the Secretary of State. This program, started in 2005, allows voters to cast their ballot at any polling location within the county during early voting and on Election Day. Previously voters were limited to voting only at their precinct polling location on Election Day. Hidalgo County is one of 42 counties to date that have successfully applied for countywide polling. In June of this year, Hidalgo County Commissioners Court unanimously approved its participation in the program for its November 2017 election.
Given the vastness of Hidalgo County, it is usually very difficult to make it on time after work to your precinct’s polling location on Election Day. Combined with the shortage of staff, this program is a much needed overdue convenience that residents now have. Additional benefits provided by this include enhancing accountability, restoring the integrity of the election process and curbing the voter fraud and intimidation that we have seen over the years hit the news. Hidalgo County is the first in the region to adopt the countywide polling program.
Early voting began on October 23 with extended hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. replacing the previous schedule of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This period runs from Oct 23 to Nov. 3 with hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29. Election Day is on Nov. 7.
On another noteworthy note, Hidalgo County Elections department recently purchased 1,294 new HART Verity Touch voting machines that will be put into use in November 2018’s general election. This will alleviate the need for assistance voting and avoid voters being turned away when trying to cast their ballot at the last minute as we have seen many times occur in elections. Their lightweight and compact designed machines will not only allow voters to adjust font size, screen contrast, and language but allow for write-in candidates and allow for changing of selections easily.
With voter turnout in Hidalgo County for the 2016 presidential election reaching a record 51.1 percent of registered voters, the hope is that the extended voting locations, hours and new machines will bring about a surge in voter participation for a bright future.