Hidalgo County to foot $120,888 bill to extend voting hours during November election
Hidalgo County commissioners have come up with a solution to avoid shortening voting hours during the upcoming November election.
"Across the county for the constitutional amendment, we will be open from 7 to 7 during the hours of early voting and of course on Election Day, as well,” said Hidalgo County elections administrator Yvonne Ramon.
The Hidalgo County Elections Department on Tuesday presented commissioners with two new options to adjust voting hours for early voting in the November election. They suggested early voting times should take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hidalgo County debated shortening voting hours for the election after issues of payment for the extra 21 hours raised concerns.
The cities of Edinburg and Weslaco requested the extension of voting hours, and were willing to split the costs.
Commissioners decided, however, to pay the entire bill— an estimated $120,888— to avoid burdening the two cities, as it will be the first time for county-wide polling sites with the county’s new voting machines.
"We hope that our numbers go up, but historically our voter turnout has been historically very, very low,” Ramon said. “The state recognizes that and throughout the state most counties will be open from 8 to 5 and will reduce the number of polling locations.”
Edinburg councilman Richard Molina, who is challenging incumbent Richard Garcia for his seat as mayor, has recently been an active voice for concerned residents and says he is relieved with the decision.
"When you have 4,200 people determine your elected officials in a city that has maybe 45 to 50,000 registered voters--that's an alarming statistic,” Molina said. “Now it all falls on the voters. We're leaving the polls open an extra 21 hours, which is big.”
Ramon added that, currently, there should be 29 early voting polling sites, but more than 40 sites will be open on Election Day, which is on Nov. 7.