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Lawsuit filed over late start times at several precincts

This crap should not happen.

After several polling locations in Harris County failed to open on time this morning, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas Organizing Project are suing the county in hopes of extending Election Day voting hours until 8 p.m. at nine polling locations.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday afternoon, the two groups alleged that the county was violating the Texas Election Code because polling locations that opened after 7 a.m. would not remain open to voters for 12 hours on Election Day as required by state law.

Polling locations across the state’s biggest county “not only failed to open at 7 a.m., but remained closed until well after 7 a.m.,” the plaintiffs wrote. Voting was further delayed at some polling locations because of equipment issues, including sign-in and voting machines that weren’t working.

The two groups put forth affidavits from several Harris County voters who faced delays Tuesday morning and, in some cases, were kept from casting ballots before needing to head to work.

[…]

When they started letting voters in to vote, the sign-in machines were not working. She watched poll workers troubleshoot the machines until leaving at 7:45 a.m.

“Harris County has been a major flashpoint, if you will,” Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said earlier in the day.

At least 18 polling locations in Harris County either did not open on time or were only partially open on time, with some locations at first operating with one or two machines when they were supposed to have eight or even 16, Stevens said.

Those sorts of issues are “typical of start-up issues on Election Day,” said Hector de Leon, director of communications and voter outreach for the Harris County Clerk’s Office. He said the county has technicians stationed across the county so they can get to voting locations within 10 minutes of a technical distress call and get machines up and running.

“There’s nothing atypical about this morning,” de Leon said. “It’s just the nature of Election Day morning.”

I’ve no doubt that a big, sprawling county like ours with hundreds of voting locations is going to present logistical problems, but maybe be a bit less blase about it? At the very least, this suggests the county didn’t have much of a contingency plan in place, nor does it suggest that the county sees it as a problem that some people may have had to leave and go to work without having voted, and may or may not have the chance to try again later in the day. I don’t know as I post this what will happen, but surely keeping the polls open till 8 at the affected locations is a reasonable thing to do. That and electing a County Clerk who will plan for this kind of thing before it happens.

UPDATE: The League of Women Voters Houston posts that the nine locations shown in the linked photo will be open till 8.

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6 Comments

  1. Sue says:

    “This crap should not happen”……….from what I’ve read, it was 9 polling places which were kept open an hour extra due to not be open on time. 9 polling sites out of approximately 1,000 polls? Good luck to the new Democrat County Clerk, I certainly hope Trautmann improves these statistics………..As an Election Day clerk, I can honestly say that at my precinct, both parties are very happy with the improvements with the voter qualification process with the new IPads which give each Election Day precinct the same electronic tools which the Early Voting sites have long had. So much faster, and very difficult to make mistakes with all the prompts given. Yes, there are going to be issues when instituting a new system, this was the first big election test for this new system, and I think on the whole, it went very well. And don’t forget, the election day presiding judges/alternate judges/ clerks and bilinguals are comprised of volunteers from both parties, who run an election maybe once or twice a year. I think having only 9 precincts have issues is a pretty good track record, glad the judge kept those polls open an extra hour.

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    Volunteers, means they don’t get paid, that is not correct. They have to take training and are paid, although it is not much.

  3. Sue says:

    While they do get paid, they certainly aren’t doing it for the money. Many of them, like my husband whose an AJ, take off from work to work it. They all give up their time and day to try to do the best they can to run the election. I call that volunteering.

  4. Manny Barrera says:

    Sue there were problems in 18% of the voting locations, that is about 1/5 of all voting locations, over 200.

    They kept it open because they sued Stan Stanart, otherwise they may not have been kept open. You should know that the pct judge running the place does not have that authority.

    The issue is minor, so I am not sure why you insist in misstating facts.

  5. Jules says:

    A paid position, even for only a day, is not volunteer work. Do you think minimum wage workers are volunteers because your husband makes more than minimum wage? Working election day and early voting makes a financial difference to some.

  6. Sue says:

    I can’t wait to see Trautmann improve the election day and early voting process so that there are zero snafus happening. With thousands of election workers who only work elections once or twice a year, it really should be a piece of cake to prevent any problems from occurring with the equipment, and the general running of the election in 100% of the precinct polling sites.

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