Leander voters will have fewer polling places to cast their vote in the June 16 runoff election than in the May 5 local election. Candidates Troy Hill and Vic Villarreal will face off after edging out Adam Benefield to force the runoff.
The Leander City Council voted 5-2 to designate Pat Bryson Municipal Hall and Leander Public Library as polling places, eliminating Leander and Rouse high schools.
Councilmember Place 1 Andrea Navarrette and Mayor Christopher Fielder voted against the measure.
The city contracts with Williamson County to hold elections. The city will pay approximately $25,000 for the runoff election, which establishes a single polling place. Each additional polling place is $4,000.
In the recent local election, the municipal hall and the library had the greatest number of election votes cast, at 350 and 352 respectively, on Election Day. Leander High School had 195 votes and Rouse High School had 93. These numbers do not include early or absentee ballots.
Fielder said it’s usually the norm to have one polling place for these types of elections.
“The city’s used to having the one location in a runoff situation, and just to save money, I think that’s what we need to do,” Navarrette said.
“To take away voting places, you’re taking away someone’s right to vote,” Leander resident Jeff Jenkins told the council. “You should have at least two places on both sides of the city to where at least there’s some people that can’t drive over here or don’t know where (Pat Bryson Municipal Hall) is, where they can go and vote as well.”
Councilmember Place 6 Marci Cannon made the motion to designate the library and municipal hall as polling places.
“We are only talking about $4,000 for a mayoral campaign and we had twice the turnout than we’ve ever had in any other election. I think the people have spoken. We need to hear them.”
Councilmember Place 4 Christine Sederquist said the city should keep all four polling places for the runoff.
“We’re talking about $4,000 to prevent voter confusion during a runoff, which is already confusing,” Sederquist said. “If we’re cutting off these locations and confusing voters, we’re borderline into the territory of voter suppression and I think we owe it to the public to make voting locations accessible and allow every voice to be heard no matter which way it goes.”
Navarrette countered by saying that if they were deciding a Leander ISD runoff, where the district encompasses more than 200 square miles, having multiple polling places makes sense but the city is smaller and doesn’t need as many locations. The city of Leander covers about 34 square miles.
Hill garnered 991 votes, or 42 percent, while Villarreal had 743 votes, or 32 percent, in the May 5 election. Early voting will be Monday, June 4-Friday, June 8 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, June 9 from 8 a.m.-noon and Monday, June 11-Tuesday, June 12 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Pat Bryson Municipal Hall. Polls will be open on election day, Saturday, June 16, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Bryson Hall and the Leander Public Library.