Nov 9, 2022 - News

Harris County polling place issues disrupt voting

People stand in line to vote at the West Gray Multiservice center

The line at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray was about 40 people deep at 5pm yesterday. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Harris County faced a host of polling place hiccups and an hour-by-hour court battle on Election Day.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of voters waited until Tuesday to vote.

  • Ballot counting lasted well into the early hours this morning.

Driving the news: Harris County District Court Judge Dawn Rogers initially ordered that voting hours extend from 7pm to 8pm after a lawsuit was filed by the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), the Texas Civil Rights Project and ACLU of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle.

  • Voters at Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, a large polling place in a predominantly Hispanic area, were unable to cast ballots for roughly four hours because voting machines were malfunctioning and other issues, the New York Times reported.

Yes, but: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly challenged the Harris County court's ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

  • As voters waited in line past 7pm, the higher court struck down the extra hour, potentially invalidating the votes that had already been cast after 7pm.
  • Of note: Even if the provisional ballots count, many voters who entered a polling site at 7pm walked out after hearing of the multi-step process to get their vote counted.
    • A poll worker at the Houston Community College - Alief Bissonnet Campus told Axios that voters would have to drive to the Harris County Administration Building, 30 minutes away, to submit a slip in six days to get their vote counted.

The big picture: Issues were reported at other polling places too.

  • Nearly half of voting machines were down at NRG a couple hours before polls closed, according to KHOU.
  • 17 polling places requested additional paper for voting, per KHOU.
  • West Gray Center, Sunnyside Multiservice Center, Baker Ripley Cleveland Campus, Kashmere Multi-Service Center and several others opened more than one hour late, according to the TOP lawsuit.
  • Melrose Park Community Center closed around 3:30pm after a city employee died from electrocution near the polling site, according to the Houston Fire Department.

Between the lines: Harris County has 782 polling sites. While some had hour-long waits, others, like Hicks, Liestman and Alexander elementary schools had minimal lines for most of the day.

What they're saying: "I'm voting because this election is more important than the presidential election. The people elected in office shape policy relating to womenA's rights and helping with poverty and supporting the elderly," Eronica Teapo told Axios at a Harris County site after she voted.

  • "I just happened to come out today. I tried to come this morning, and the line was long," Saif Azzawi said. "It's good to see everyone coming out doing what they're supposed to do."
  • Cathy Kim Pham, who said she voted in support of the Vietnamese community, said she was able to come to the polling site because Amazon gave voters a two hour break.

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