Lacking number of polling locations raises concerns, frustrations among Hidalgo County voters

By: Trevier Gonzalez

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Whether it was a lack of election staff or fewer voting centers, concerns are still surrounding whether or not the right preparations were made ahead of Tuesday’s election in Hidalgo County.

Hidalgo County residents were quick to point out that Tuesday’s election had some confusion.

"I don't like what happened yesterday, said Hidalgo County Democratic Chair Patrick Eronini. “I wish we could change it, but we did the best we could under the circumstances."

RELATED: Questions remain after more than 20 polling sites close in Hidalgo County on Election Day

Eronini said the Democratic Party intended to have 88 voting centers throughout the county. In total, they ended up having 41 polling locations open. One location in Mission was closed the morning of Election Day. 

The reason given is tied to inexperience with new voting machines and a lack of staff. 

"It's easy for people to criticize, but I'm telling you that it was very, very difficult to get people to go train for one day, for $12 an hour on brand-new machines, with laws that are very ambiguous,” Eronini said.

One of those laws in question is Senate Bill 1, part of the new state election laws the GOP legislature made a priority to pass. The law made several changes to the state’s election process, including possible criminal penalties for poll workers who offer voter assistance.

Attorney James Slattery with the Texas Civil Rights Project says it’s too soon to know if it has a direct effect. His concern is the way these elections are handled.

RELATED: Polling location in Progreso closed due to worker shortage  

"This is really an outdated way to do primaries,” Slattery said. “Most other states, they just have the state and county election offices do it because it's more professional; they are non-partisan. Those are people that are trained to administer elections.”

Without a statewide change in the legislature, Slattery says issues like these will only continue, making the public carry distrust against a system they’re meant to believe in.

“What they are seeing is that it appears that members of one political party are being treated better than another, and that contributes to an erosion of faith in the democratic process,” Slattery said.

The Republican Party had 18 polling locations open on Election Day in Hidalgo County. 

The newly re-elected GOP chairwoman for Hidalgo County, Adrienne Pena Garza, said in a statement that this is the Republican Party’s first primary election in more than 14 years, adding that her party didn’t have to share workers with Democrats, which is something she believes ensures voter integrity.

Read Pena Garza's full statement below:

"This was our first primary in over 14 years. What does that mean? We don't share workers with the Democrats. Also, they don't oversee our election or try to persuade our voters. To me this helped us ensure voter integrity. Downside we had to recruit over 300 people and we only got a list of 200. Then several called and didn't show and in a few cases some decided to work the Democratic elections. Serving as an election judge or poll watcher is a lot of work but it's important work and it should be to all Americans. I'm confident with our numbers that we will continue to grow and win! If you want to sign up for the general please call us at (956)803-0111."


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