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Countywide voting will remain for March primaries after Travis County political parties reach deal

A person at the top of a staircase near a sign that says "Vote Aqui Here"
Gabriel C. Pérez
Countywide voting has been available in Travis County for more than a decade.

Travis County voters will not lose the ability to cast a ballot anywhere in the county during the March primaries after the Republican and Democratic parties reached an agreement late Monday.

The two parties have been negotiating for weeks about how to administer the March 5 election. Travis County Republican Party officials had been pushing to count ballots by hand. A spokesperson for Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson confirmed to KUT last week that that would have eliminated countywide voting.

Travis County voters have been able to cast a ballot wherever is convenient for them for more than a decade. Election experts say countywide voting can be helpful for working-class voters and shift workers.

The political parties must enter a contract on how to administer each election, including agreeing on polling sites and equipment. It has been the tradition for at least the last 30 years in Travis County for the parties to come to an agreement.

The delay means the two parties were unable to move forward on training election workers and testing equipment.

Katie Naranjo, chair for the Travis County Democratic Party, called the deal an important victory for all Travis County voters.

“Countywide voting is essential to ensuring an accessible and accountable election,” she said. “The ability to vote anywhere in the county uniquely impacts voters of color, suburban voters and shift workers. … That was our biggest concern — working-class voters, many of them are essential workers of our community and their voices wouldn’t be heard.”

Travis County Republican Party officials said they are trying to improve voter turnout and rebuild trust in the system. But there has been no evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, as other Republican groups have claimed. In fact, former President Donald Trump carried Texas in that election by nearly 6 points. But nationwide, President Joe Biden beat Trump by over 7 million votes.

Matt Mackowiak, the chairman of the county GOP, said in a written statement the party secured "the strongest election integrity provisions in county history for the 2024 GOP primary."

“Instead of executing a standard primary contract as we have the past three election cycles, [Travis County Republican Party] sought to increase voter confidence in elections by significantly improving transparency and ensuring specific provisions were included to allow for auditability and accuracy, with little to no impact to the voter experience," he said.

Those provisions include hand counting all mail-in ballots and requiring a voter check-in with a paper roster, in addition to the electronic check-in process already in place. The contract also calls for some additional ballot reports and tabulations, which Mackowiak says ensures transparency and accuracy.

“A majority of Republican voters have serious concerns about how recent elections have been conducted both in Texas and nationally, so we decided to respond by demanding provisions that enable election audits and improve transparency and accuracy,” he said. “These important victories will increase confidence in local elections. We expect it will lead to increased volunteer enthusiasm for election workers and increased voter participation.”

The Travis County Republican Party is still pushing for hand counting of early ballots, which it said would cost thousands more and require an additional 2,000 volunteers.

Travis County Clerk Dyana Limon-Mercado said there are certain criteria the party would have to meet in order for early ballots to be hand counted. It has until Dec. 31 to meet the criteria under the contract, which Travis County commissioners approved Tuesday. Regardless, she said, countywide voting will continue.

Naranjo said the Democratic primary will include the same additional paper check-in process at the polls, adding a few more seconds to the process, but the voter experience will remain mostly unchanged. She said the party was willing to make the concessions to ensure everyone’s voice and vote is accounted for.

“I think it's really important that people be informed and have trust [in the system],” she said, “as well as how these results actually come about.”

The last day to register to vote in the primaries is Feb. 5. Early voting runs from Feb. 20 to March 1.

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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