Harris County changes numbers of polling locations, still exceeding state standard

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Looking to vote early in Harris County? There are plenty of options
Looking to vote early in Harris County? Officials added more polling locations to the list, resulting in a 16,000-voter turnout on day one.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- About 16,000 people voted in Harris County on the first day of early voting.

On day two, William Matthews showed up to cast his ballot.

"Voting is important," Matthews said. "It's your civic duty. And we're in a time right now with Houston, everything that's going on from the crime to the streets, the city, the budget, the economy, so many things. So it's so important to vote."

With so much at stake, he said it's not only important but easy to vote when there are so many places to do it.

There are more early voting locations than there were for the last municipal election in 2019. But on Election Day, Nov. 7, the number is smaller than four years ago.

County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth explained why.

"There were different requirements at the time in 2019," she said. "We've reduced those, but we are still more than half of what we need in the county."

In 2019, Harris County allowed voting at any polling place for any voter for the first time. Because of the change, there needed to be more venues to avoid confusion.

Hudspeth's office expanded on that explanation in a statement, which read, "Currently, Harris County has 1165 voting precincts. Under Sec. 43.007 of the Texas Election Code, Harris County could reduce their polling locations to 50% of their county voter registration precincts, which would only require 583 election day polling locations. However, Harris County has opted not to reduce their polling locations to the extent permitted by Section 43.007 of the Texas Election Code."

ABC13 asked how the site selection process worked.

The clerk's office told Eyewitness News that former Election Administrator Clifford Tatum's office made the recommendations this election, and the Democrat-led County Commission approved them.

You may remember a new state law removed the administrator position and put the job of running elections back in the hands of the clerk. Also different, after a widely criticized 2022 election under the helm of Tatum, the number of technicians to help make the election run more smoothly.

"You have election techs at every early vote site on top of the election workers, of course, to mitigate any issues or concerns with our machines," Hudspeth told ABC13.

Hudspeth said no election is flawless, but they are working to improve each time voters go to the polls.

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