This story has been updated to add state Rep. Stephanie Diane Baumgardner Klick's first name.
County Commissioner Dianne Edmondson again showed Tuesday she is outspoken on an effort some say will ease voter access on election days in Denton County and across Texas, and she sowed doubt on increased voter access by saying it’s not inherently beneficial to elections.
Voting centers, up for discussion Tuesday in Commissioners Court, would essentially allow registered voters to cast ballots at any polling location in the county regardless of precinct, just like what happens during early voting.
The centers have bipartisan support from county elections and other officials in Denton and are said to make it less hectic for voters on election day.
Edmondson is against them, and she parted ways on Tuesday with the other four Republican county commissioners when they voted to officially oppose House Bill 4048, which, if passed, would prevent counties with more than 400,000 residents from using voting centers during election days.
Her specific concern about the bill, Edmondson said Tuesday, is that it seems to specifically target larger counties, some of which already utilize voting centers. And she said she wants to see it grandfathered in those counties so they may continue using voting centers.
Edmondson already signaled her resentment of voting centers earlier this year. On Tuesday, Edmondson abstained from voting, citing her dissatisfaction with the bill — and because of her longtime relationship with the bill’s author, state Rep. Stephanie Diane Baumgardner Klick, a former Tarrant County Republican Party chairwoman.
“Out of personal loyalty to her, I wanted to abstain from voting against her legislation because I do not support voting centers,” Edmondson, herself a former Denton County Republican Party chairwoman, said after court.
Edmondson said during and after court that voting centers won’t necessarily reduce voter confusion. She said the centers could bring in longer lines that might deter voters from trying to vote.
Her colleagues seemed in favor of at least the possibility of having voting centers in the future. County Judge Andy Eads said there are many people who live in one precinct but work in another, so they are likely to vote during a lunch break, making a voting center potentially a good solution.
“This would just be adding the same process for early voting ... for election day,” Eads said.
Adding to her list of concerns about changes to voting, Edmondson said she is concerned about such things as same-day voter registration, which allows for people to register and cast ballots on the same day. (Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips said later that in states that allow same-day registrations, officials allow those newly registered voters to cast provisional ballots until they are verified.)
“That would certainly increase voter participation, but is that a wise thing to do?” Edmondson said of same-day registrations.
“That’s not what we’re talking about,” Commissioner Ron Marchant said.
“I understand, Ron, but what I am saying is, there are other factors that enter into massive voter participation,” Edmondson said.
Before that exchange with Marchant, who questioned why Edmondson would abstain from voting on the court’s resolution, Marchant advocated for the possibility of having voting centers in hopes of boosting voters’ ability to cast ballots with fewer obstacles.
“I appreciate what ... Commissioner Marchant is saying about wanting to encourage more voting et cetera, but sometimes that’s not a good idea,” Edmondson said.