Marion County Judge

Leward LaFleur

JEFFERSON — Marion County is moving a step closer in its journey to seek approval in the Texas Secretary of State’s countywide polling place program.

A public hearing will be conducted by the Marion County Commissioners Court at 9 a.m. Monday, July 22, on the matter.

“This whole thing has been spearheaded by our County Clerk Vickie Smith,” Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur said of the county’s journey to be converted to voter centers that will allow voters to go to any of the county’s polling sites, even on Election Day, and vote. “She has just been phenomenal and I’ve supported her as much as possible.

“We would like public comments,” he encouraged. “If anybody that’s for or against wants to speak up, we’ll be more than happy to hear them out.”

The county judge said the main reason the county wanted to move forward with the conversion is two-fold.

“The first is the convenience to the voter. That’s our number one reasoning behind it,” he said. “The voter will benefit from it because it’ll be easier for them to access a polling location because they won’t have to vote in their precinct. They can vote at any voting location on Election Day.”

“The second thing is when we have to buy new voting machines or election equipment, it’s going to save the taxpayers,” he added.

Right now, the county has four voting machines at each voting location; thus that’s 40 machines elections officials have to buy countywide. Currently, the county is looking at spending $300,000 on machines. LaFleur said hopefully that expense will decrease to $150,000 since they’ll eventually need less machines and resources once they start consolidating precincts through the conversion of countywide vote centers.

“One of the main benefits is, right now, we have 10 polling locations county-wide and this will allow us to consolidate those to sevenhe said. “And once the program has been successful, we’ll be able to consolidate more to five.

“So it will save the taxpayers a lot of money, and on poll workers (too),” he added. “So I think it’s a win-win for the taxpayer. It helps them.”

In addition to conducting the public hearing Monday, the court will consider approving a resolution, supporting inclusion into the program.

“(County Clerk) Vicki Smith will submit a packet asking for permission,” LaFleur said, noting the Elections Division in Austin only allots so many for a county the size comparable to Marion.

“The resolution will let the Secretary of State’s office know the commissioners are on board with this,” said LaFleur. “Vickie’s made a lot of Rotary Club meetings, Lions Club, things like that to try to get the word out to see if we can get support from the community itself.”

LaFleur, who began his office as county judge in January, said one thing he campaigned was moving the county into the 21st century. Thus, converting to vote centers is a vision he supports.

“I want to try to spearhead as many programs like this to help the taxpayers rather it be a voting machine cost or convenience of voting,” he said. “It just takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I think we’re moving forward. We’re making some progress.”