During Monday’s meeting of the Erath County Commissioners, the court approved a request to go out for bids for new election software. According to County Clerk Gwinda Jones, the county has applied to participate in a pilot program that was established by the Texas Secretary of State. The program, if implemented, will establish a system of county wide polling places and will be implemented for the upcoming presidential election in November.

Jones said the biggest benefit of the updated voting system would be the reduction in the number of polling places needed to conduct an election.

“The new software would reduce the number of polling places in the county to 11. The system will allow for open polling. Registered voters will be able to go to any of those 11 locations to vote no matter where they live or their precinct,” Jones said. “It will also reduce the number of workers needed to conduct an election. If the program is successful, voters will be able to go to any of those 11 locations for each November election rather than wondering where to vote from year to year.”

Jones also explained that the computerized system would mark each voter as already voted as soon as his or her vote has been cast to guarantee that nobody is able vote more than once.

County Judge Tab Thompson explained that there is money in the budget that can be used to purchase the software and added that Jones and Tax Assessor/Collector Jennifer Carey had been to Lubbock County to view the software, which they have been using since the November 2006 election. He said they came back with favorable reports on the ease of use and accuracy of the system.

Finally, Jones explained that before the system can be implemented, law requires that a public hearing be held on the possible implementation of the new voting system. A hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, May 26, at the courthouse to allow citizens a chance to voice their opinions.

If the decision is made to join the pilot program, a mock election will be held prior to November to familiarize county officials with the new software and allow any problems to be detected prior to Election Day.

Meanwhile, the court heard the annual report on tax collections for the county. The report showed that there are no major outstanding delinquent items on the county’s property tax role.

In addition, the court granted permission to once again go out for requests for proposals (RFPs) for jail architects. Thompson explained since it had been sometime since the county last requested RFPs for the jail house renovation, it is necessary to begin the process again to guarantee that the information provided is up to date.

Finally, the commissioners voted to approve specifications for the EMS expansion project. The next step in the process will be to go out for bids on the project, which will allow more space and separate housing for the EMS and fire departments at the current location.