The right to vote has long been held as one of our most precious and essential rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized the fundamental importance of the right to vote in several cases.

In 1964 the Court stated “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”

The Supreme Court of the United States, placing the power of the right to vote in context, explained: “Especially since the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, any alleged infringement of the right of citizens to vote must be carefully and meticulously scrutinized.”

This past Monday, a story in the McAllen Monitor explaining that Hidalgo County polling locations were being closed, was particularly troublesome. Although the intent may not be to suppress or confuse voters, the result and consequence will be just that.

Imagine voters who voted in the Primary Election at a specific location in their precincts wish to cast their vote in the Runoff Election. Imagine some of those voters who have been working all day make it to the poll at 6:30 p.m. Election Night when the polls close at 7:00 p.m. However, when the voters arrive at their usual polling location they find it to be closed. Some of those voters will seek out their new poll site but certainly some voters will not go the extra mile.

Chances are that some voters seeking out their new polling site after going to their usual site may not make it to their new poll site on time. Voters who wanted to vote, who tried to vote, will not have their voices heard. The closing and consolidation of poll sites will cause voter suppression and confusion when voter fatigue is already likely to be high. This is a scenario that we, as a community, must avoid and adamantly oppose — as a citizen, voter, and candidate I certainly do.

Compared to other major populous counties around Texas, Hidalgo County offers substantially fewer polling locations, even on a per capita basis. For example, in 2016:

Bexar County offered 286 polling sites, one site per 6,489 residents;
Dallas County offered 296 polling sites, one site per 8,508 residents;
El Paso County offered 145 polling sites, one site per 5,748 residents;
Travis County offered 190 polling sites, one site per 6,058 residents;
Hidalgo County offered 75 polling sites, one site per 11,080 residents.

Now Hidalgo County is proposing 50 or fewer sites for the May 24th Runoff, which is one site per 16,621 residents.

The closing and consolidation of polling sites is a major step backwards in our continued fight to increase access, turnout, and voter participation in our elections, especially amongst our Hispanic Community. When we have less participation in our elections, our democracy loses out. I ask you to stand with me to make our democratic process stronger by opposing the closing of any poll site in Hidalgo County.

If you would like to volunteer as an Election Judge or Clerk I urge you contact our Hidalgo County Election Department at 956-318-2570 or Kenna Griffin with the Hidalgo County Democratic Party at 956-283-4669.