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Bexar County commissioners officially voted during their Tuesday meeting to add 18 more polling places with a pledge to provide the necessary funds to purchase voting machines, tabulators, and pay for additional personnel.
“So we don’t have to wait until Jan. 3 to get our results,” Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) joked.
Last week, Judge Karen Pozza of the 407th District Court told the Elections Department to add 18 polling sites for Election Day and post the locations earlier than usual. The commissioners’ vote Tuesday formally established the Elections Department’s course of action and took away the option of appealing Pozza’s ruling. Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said Monday that she planned on complying with Pozza’s order.
Commissioners did not set a limit on how much the Elections Department could spend to create the new polling sites and Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) noted the commissioners are waiting for Callanen to provide an estimate. But money should not be an issue; according to the county manager’s office, there is about $10 million left earmarked for election purposes, including money from the general fund and from outside grants.
“We still have millions of dollars in elections that we can spend,” Rodriguez said.
Commissioners also approved a modified order that formally established the early voting sites used in Bexar County on Tuesday without Election Administrator Jacque Callanen’s presence. She was scheduled to present but did not attend. Callanen did not respond to an email request for comment.
Since early voting began on Oct. 13, more than 248,000 people have cast ballots in-person in Bexar County.
Commissioners also voted Tuesday to fund a new Civil Rights Division for the district attorney’s office, which DA Joe Gonzales shared details about on Friday. More than $385,000 will pay for two prosecutors, one investigator, and one victim’s advocate that will focus solely on police use-of-force cases.
Commissioners approved a restaurant and bar-specific grant program that would draw from federal coronavirus relief dollars that would give restaurants and bars grants up to $25,000 if they can prove pandemic-related revenue loss of at least 15 percent. The County allocated $3,748,800 to be split evenly among the four precincts. To be eligible, restaurants and bars must be located and remain in Bexar County, have no more than 60 full and part-time employees, and received no previous coronavirus-related grants or loans from Bexar County or San Antonio. Grants will be paid out by Nov. 30.
“This will be a great help to a segment of our business community that has arguably suffered the worst under COVID,” Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) said. “I’m glad we’re doing something there. At the end of the day, it’s still a very small amount but it will help some.”