The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

A&M-San Antonio reinstated as polling site for upcoming election

A&M-San Antonio reinstated as polling site for upcoming election - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Dylan Villalon, Student Government Association election commissioner, speaks on behalf of Texas A&M University-San Antonio at the Commissioners Court meeting on Sept. 6, 2022. Villalon addressed the court about reinstating the university as a designated polling location for the upcoming midterm elections. Photo by Amber Esparza

With midterm elections less than two months away, voters will be able to cast their ballots at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, which almost lost its designation as a polling location. 

The university will host early voting Oct. 24- Nov. 4 and Election Day voting on Nov. 8 in the Mays Center, Suite 111 of the Science and Technology Building. 

Earlier this month, Bexar County commissioners reinstated 46 early voting poll sites that were in danger of being removed because most Bexar County voters opted to vote primarily at 259 sites since they have been able to vote anywhere, not just in their precincts, since 2019. 

Commissioners approved the locations after hearing from dozens of community members and college students.

Dylan Villalon, election commissioner for the Student Government Association, spoke on behalf of A&M-San Antonio during the Sept. 6 Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting to express concerns of the university not being a designated polling site. 

“I’m here today to express my alarm … with the exclusion of Texas A&M University-San Antonio as an early polling site and Election Day polling location for the November election,” Villalon said. “Many students and surrounding residents will now struggle to do the most basic of civic duties.” 

Villalon emphasized the importance of reinstating A&M-San Antonio as a polling site while asking Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, who represents West and Southside of San Antonio in Precinct 1, to support the SGA’s request for reinstatement.  

Video by Irma Saenz.

“This election coming up is the most important election that Texas has had in the past two decades,” Villalon said. “It’s going to dictate the next 20-30 years of politics for students here in San Antonio.

“Commissioner Flores, you should have received a letter of support from the office of the president at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, as well as the student government (association.)

“So, in solidarity with those offices, I would like to ask you to please reinstate Texas A&M San Antonio, Our Lady of Lake University and San Antonio College’s polling locations,” Villalon said. 

During the meeting, Clay-Flores expressed her disagreement with closing polling sites in Bexar County while requesting the reinstatement of A&M-San Antonio as a voting location. 

“I have never been in support of closing any sites,” Clay-Flores said. “We want to make sure that we empower people to vote and to have access to sites. 

“I know last time I talked about the lack of sites in Precinct 1. I also would like to add, even though Palo Alto is nearby, to request to add Texas A&M (San Antonio) as a (polling) site.”

During the Sept. 6 meeting, Jacquelyn Callanen, Bexar County Elections administrator, discussed her reasoning for lowering the number of polling sites from 300 to 258 for the upcoming election cycle.

Callanen said Bexar County began using vote centers — which allow voters briefly explain what vote centers allow voters to do that they couldn’t do before — in 2019. The change allowed the county to keep only 65% of its poll sites open, Callanen said. 

“We chose not to do that,” Callanen said. “We kept all of the sites open for the first two elections (November 2019, March 2020) and the voters showed us where they wanted to go.”

After the 2020 presidential election, Callanen said the Bexar County Elections Department followed the methodology. 

Callanen said the numbers that they reported after the 2020 election led them to drop down to 259 polling sites, which is higher than the minimum number of polling sites of 152. She said she believes that instead of “cutting sites,” Bexar County is sitting at 106 more than some other counties.

Bexar County Judge and Commissioners Court during their meeting on Sept. 6, 2022. From left to right: Commissioners Rebeca Clay-Flores and Justin Rodriguez; Judge Nelson W. Wolff; Commissioners Marialyn Barnard and Tommy Calvert. Photo by Amber Esparza

“The law says, after you have completed a successful year under vote centers, you are now allowed to drop down to 50% of your poll sites,” she said. “We would never do that.

Callanen was met with criticism by Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert over the lack of polling sites and how it would affect voter participation. 

“The crux of the matter is that for every 0.25 miles that someone has to travel additionally to a voting location, it is a 5% decrease in voter turnout,” Calvert said. 

Callanen expressed her confusion with the numbers Calvert provided but was informed where the numbers came from soon after.  

“Those numbers came from the lawsuit you were sued over and got this county sued over,” Calvert said. “It’s in black and white, and I’ve provided every member of the court a copy of the judge’s order.”  

Following Calvert, Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez also expressed concern about the closing of polling sites. 

Rodriguez explained the law that Callanen is referring to is a “permissive law” not a “prescriptive law,” which means that it’s not a requirement to reduce polling sites.

A motion was presented by Rodriguez, which was seconded by Clay-Flores, to add five early voting locations, it included the following: A&M-San Antonio, Our Lady of the Lake University, St. Mary’s University, Frank Garrett Community Center and St. Paul Community Center. 

The motion was approved through a 4-1 vote. Precinct 3 Commissioner Marialyn Barnard voted against the motion.

About the Author

Raul Trey Lopez
Assistant Editor
Raul Trey Lopez is a communication senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He is a first-generation college student. In his spare time, he likes listening to music. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in journalism while also maintaining his family flooring business.

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