DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said Monday the county is considering using convention centers and ballrooms as polling locations in November.
“We’re calling those mega-centers that we’re looking at. A convention center, but if they don’t have a convention center, we’re looking at hotels that have large ballrooms that we can rent out for that day.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, she said the county has to think outside the box. “Covid is still going to be around in November. We know that, we’re preparing for that.”
To help prevent the spread of the virus, the county is spacing out machines so voters can be properly socially-distanced.
Because a presidential election always draws a very large turnout, and the one between President Donald Trump and the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is expected to be no different, Pippins-Poole said they want to have a large space with numerous voting machines.
She said she’s had conversations with the city of Dallas about the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and other cities as well.
Pippins-Poole also said it will take people longer to fill out their ballots in November because there’s no more straight-ticket voting and people will also consider their city and school board candidates too.
The municipal elections were delayed from May.
Pippins-Poole said, “You’re going to have lines but we’re trying to minimize the wait time at those polling places.”
Voters were split on the idea.
Russell Davis of Dallas said, “As long as the ventilation is good, it’s not a bad idea.”
Betsyanne Tippette of Dallas said, “But my only thought is maybe a lot of people wouldn’t believe that and they would not want to stay here because they wouldn’t want to go around that big of a facility with that many people.”
Another Dallas voter, Dennis Nienkerk said, “If it helps them get out to vote to have a convention center and you can socially-distance, I’m all in favor of it.”
Ashley Cain said a voting mega-center isn’t for her. “I may try to find a smaller indoor location that’s socially-distanced.”
Collin County’s elections administrator Bruce Sherbet said they will be increasing the number of polling locations, but haven’t discussed so far using convention centers or hotel ballrooms.
Tarrant and Denton Counties didn’t respond to our emails.
Many of the voters we spoke with said they want the state to expand voting by mail.
Texas Democrats filed suit against the state of Texas to make that happen, but the State and U.S. Supreme Courts have rejected their initial efforts.
Pippins-Poole said the county encouraged those older than 65, the disabled, and those with an illness to vote by mail, which is allowed under state law.
On Monday, early voting for the primary runoff began.
In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, the Governor expanded early voting from five to ten days.
Elections officials have made numerous changes to polling places to make them safe for voters.
Voters are not required to wear masks, but elections administrators say they strongly recommend people do.
If voters don’t have a mask, they’re available at the polling sites.
They are given hand sanitizer when they walk in and a sterilized stylus to use to sign-in and to vote.
Poll workers wear masks and face shields.
If anyone has Covid-19 symptoms, they can still vote.
Poll workers have curbside service, where they bring the ballot to the car.
Pippins-Poole said because the machines have to be spaced out further, there are fewer machines.
Voters are giving their thumbs up.
Betsyanne Tippette said, “The process was wonderful. They’ve taken a lot of thought, a lot caution and it was just easy peasy.”
Steven Cain agreed. “It was spaced out, spread out. They gave you styluses, seemed very organized, had you use hand sanitizer at the start. So was really impressed by it.”
The most significant race is the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, a statewide race between retired Air Force pilot MJ Hegar and State Senator Royce West of Dallas.