Confusion over polling locations leave many in Waco frustrated

Confusion over the McLennan County Records Building and its polling location left many frustrated on Super Tuesday. Peter Enoch | Multimedia Journalist

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Some Waco voters left Super Tuesday confused and disappointed after discovering the McLennan County Records Building’s polling location was not open for election day.

The Records Building served only as an early voting location, which the McLennan County website sorts to the top of the list of voting locations. Adding to the ambiguity, other early voting sites on the list also opened as polling sites for voting on Tuesday.

This lack of distinction confused voters like Lionel Escamilla, who arrived with his family around 5.30 p.m. hoping to cast their ballots after a busy day. Being unable to vote at the location, Escamilla said, left him frustrated.

“This was one of the places that was on the list anyway,” Escamilla said. “It’s a waste of my time because I brought my family, I just picked up my kids from daycare and brought my family over here. We’re trying to vote before the polls close and it’s just a waste of time because now I have to go somewhere else.”

Kathy Van Wolfe, McLennan County’s election administrator, said the Records Building has never served as an election day location, and opening it on election day would stretch county resources thin.

“This is an early voting site and we’ve never had it open for election day,” Van Wolfe said. “We have 33 vote centers in the county … [including] several in Waco and we’ve got a rural area that needs to be covered too, so we want to make sure that all of our voting places are not just inside the city of Waco.”

Kellis Richter was another Wacoan who arrived at the location hoping to cast a ballot. Though surprised the location wasn’t open, Richter said she likely wouldn’t have noticed any clarification from the county. Instead, Richter said voters should work harder to educate themselves about the election process.

“In some regards I think of myself as a registered voter, we need to educate ourselves on the polling places and not just the candidates and the issues,” Richter said. “Part of that responsibility I think [falls] on me.”

Natashia Howard, a Baylor University employee, said the confusion voters felt on Tuesday could deter them from voting in the future.

“It’s frustrating, and I’m a college graduate so I think I’m educated in how our voting system works and at least I know how to go and figure it out,” Howard said. “If somebody is not used to that… it can be very frustrating and even that first roadblock discourages people from even participating in voting… If we want full participation in our voting system, we need to make sure that [the process is] extremely clear, extremely easy and not frustrating.”