Long lines 'won't be an issue' in November, Harris County clerk says

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The post-mortem began today on the long lines at several Harris County polling places on Super Tuesday that overwhelmed staff and equipment.

"The good news is that we got the returns probably faster than we've ever done, except for a few straggler judges" said Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman, "But for the voters, not good, not good."

She added that the majority of people who voted did not experience the lines that swamped The West Gray Multi-Service Center and Texas Southern University, where the last vote was cast after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

It was a function of the split primary voting, which required voters to decide which party primary they were voting in and then join a line for either Republican or Democrat, which had separate ballots.

Because the Democratic primary had the most interest, there were more Democrats, but in some cases, not enough voting machines to handle the crowd.

Harris County GOP Chair Paul Simpson blamed Trautman, who is a Democrat, for the delays.

"The county clerk, for example, put in two and a half times more machines than what we asked for. What we asked for is to have a different number of machines at different locations," he said.

Numbers provided by his office state the party requested 2,319 voting machines for the county's 401 voting precincts.

The clerk's office allocated 4,147.

Trautman said she provided an equal number of machines for each party in the interest of being equitable.

The numbers changed at the precincts that were slammed by a flood of Election Day voters.

At TSU, 14 machines were added, but some stopped working because of the overload.

Some of the county's voting machines are 20 years old. More were purchased in recent years, but they were refurbished, and included those sold by Travis County after converting to a modern version that includes touch screen rather than a "wheel."

For the first time, Harris County voters were able to go to any polling place within the county and cast their ballot.

The state approved the change several years ago and counties could decide whether to opt in. The change also required separate ballots depending on whether the voter was a Democrat or Republican, which accounted for some lines Tuesday night.

Trautman said it won't be an issue in the November presidential election because the ballot will be the same.

She is also planning to ask for more voting machines to be purchased.

In addition, she said she will be reaching out to the community asking for input on how to better streamline the process in coming months.

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