With a large number of candidates expected to flood the Allen Event Center in the upcoming election, city officials are taking steps to reduce the polling site signage clutter that often accompanies the campaigns.
Last week the council approved four amendments to its voting ordinances, and they will go into effect for the Nov. 3 election and the early voting period.
“As one of the most popular polling places in Collin County we’ve seen more and more candidates come here and electioneer for early voting and election day,” said City Secretary Shelley George. “In fact in 2016 for the presidential election we had over 22,000 Collin County voters vote here at the (municipal court).”
This year’s voting will take place at the Allen Event Center to provide more space for social distancing. George said voting will likely return to the court building in the future.
She said with more candidates come more signs and said this makes it a good time to refresh the rules.
One change is to reduce the time for placement of signs at a city-owned polling location.
Currently candidates can post signs 72 hours before early voting begins and can leave them up until 72 hours after Election Day voting ends.
“This can increase litter at our voting sites because for the past few years we have seen quite a bit of an increase in severe weather ,” George said. “It also limits the space for candidates to stand.”
The change reduces that time to 24 hours before early voting until 24 hours after Election Day voting ends.
George said an increasing number of signs are being left up, leaving staff to remove them.
George said the center has an event that is expected to conclude the Sunday before early voting begins, which is within the 72-hour period.
“(That) would cause the event to be impacted by the number of signage that could go up should the rules remain at 72 hours,” she said.
Another change is limiting the number of signs that can go up at a city-owned polling location to four. Currently there is no limit, but George said this year’s election could cause that to be problematic.
George said Allen Event Center will be a mega voting center, meaning there will be 40 voting machines available.
“Just in Allen alone the ballot has about 70 candidates alone for voters to vote,” George said. “Because we are a mega center, we are many times the No. 1 polling place in the county, there will be well over 125 different candidates who could potentially put signs at the Allen Event Center.”
Another change is to limit the size of candidate signs at city-owned polling locations from 36 square feet to 16 square feet.
The fourth change is to limit the placing of tents to one hour before the polls open and the removal of tents to one hour after polls close daily. Currently there are no restrictions.
“Over the years we’ve experienced storms that have caused tents that were unmanned to be blown away,” George said.
George said the restrictions apply to the event center and the parking garage. The Village of Allen has the right to remove signage on any other building in that development.
There are several regulations that will remain in place. Candidates are not allowed to electioneer on driveways, parking areas, medians within parking areas or driveways on a city-owned polling place.
They can’t place any signs or literature in any area designated as a planting or landscaping area or to any tree, shrub, building, pole or other improvement on a city-owned polling place.
And candidates can’t place a sign or literature within 10 feet of the public roadway adjacent to a city-owned polling place.
The Texas Secretary of State issued election advisory notices to request using large spaces to allow for social distancing. George said on an average day the event center will allow for 150 voters at one time, and that’s not counting using the entire concourse. There will also be markers on the floor to help spread people out by 6 feet.
Allen ISD’s service center and various campuses will be voting sites as well, but the regulation changes don’t apply to those.