SA School District Makes Election Day a Holiday After Shooting

The Northside Independent School District has declared Nov. 8 a student holiday to accommodate voters on Election Day without risking student safety.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen hopes other schools will follow Northside’s example.

After Uvalde’s May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School, many schools indicated they did not want voters on campus on Election Day. Reluctance to participate as polling stations due to heightened security concerns affected Election Day planning.

In the past, the county used schools for nearly 69% of polling places on Election Day. Although some schools prefer to have a polling place at the back of campus, this creates an access issue for older and disabled voters and potential legal liability for the county.

Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday backed a plan that will emphasize access to early voting sites in what is expected to be a high-turnout election.

Callanen said she plans up to 45 sites across the county that will be operational for early voting from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4. With about two-thirds of voters voting early, the county is considering larger numbers, above the normal 32-42 that have run in the past, under a planned budget of 2,285,000 $ for general elections.

Commissioner Tommy Calvert said the county must prepare for a “far larger than normal” midterm election fielded by Democratic and Republican voters and possibly independents.

“It’s going to be a big turnout,” Calvert said.

Of more than 1.2 million registered voters in Bexar County as of July 18, county officials said as many as 700,000 or more could participate in the election, with a contentious race for governor and other top races on the ballot. Over the past four years, approximately 108,000 new voters have registered.

The Bexar County Elections Committee, chaired by Callanen and including Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Sheriff Javier Salazar, Democratic Bexar County Chairwoman Monica Alcántara and newly elected Republican President Jeff McManus, will meet on August 15. to discuss the details of the electoral plan. The county provided 258 Election Day voting sites for the May 24 primary runoff, but it could weed out underperforming sites that traditionally draw no more than 50 voters. Under state law, the county could have fewer than 160 sites open on Nov. 8.

In addition to a high turnout, Callanen said she expects a long ballot in November. At least 19 cities and school districts have contacted the county elections department with potential ballots. The deadline for local entities to call an election is August 22.

The county moved in 2019 to a “voting center” system that allows people to vote anywhere in the county on Election Day. Since then, around 40% of voters cast a ballot on Election Day outside their constituency.

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