Politics

Congressmen Call For Federal Investigation Of Super Tuesday Voting Delays In Harris County

Democratic U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Al Green say their districts suffered from a shortage of voting machines and last minute poll station changes that discouraged participation by Hispanic and African-American voters.

Two Harris County congressmen are calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate long delays many minority voters faced when trying to vote in the Texas primary election on Super Tuesday.

Gene Green’s 29th congressional district has a Hispanic majority. Al Green’s 9th district is largely African-American. The pair says their districts received fewer voting machines than majority white precincts in Harris County, and that their districts suffered greater disruptions from last-minute changes of polling locations.

Gene Green says the effect was to discourage minority voters from casting their ballots.

“And the only alternative we have is to have the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act check and see whether our county clerk was doing his job.”

In at least one location, in Houston’s East End, voters were casting ballots after 10 p.m. the night of the Texas primary.

If the Justice Department does investigate and finds evidence of discrimination, there could be real consequences for Harris County this Election Day.

“One of the remedies is to have federal poll watchers to observe what the county’s doing,” says Gerald Treece, a professor of constitutional law at South Texas College of Law. “Let me make it clear, that’s not happening now. But this could lead to something like that unless Harris County can explain better than they have so far exactly what happened at these polling places and these election booths on this recent primary.”

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart says he had no warning the two congressmen were planning to ask the Justice Department to intervene.

“I was a little surprised about it,” Stanart says, “because they have not talked to my office about this issue. If so, they would then understand that the parties are the ones responsible for the locations and the estimated turnout for election day.”

Stanart says there were definitely problems with a shortage of voting machines. But he says that’s largely because the parties, particularly the Democrats, vastly underestimated what voter turnout would be on March 1.

Houston Public Media spoke with Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis the day after the primary. Lewis said the party’s ability to pay for voting machines and polling locations depends on a limited budget set by the Texas Secretary of State.

Below is the letter to DOJ over Harris County Voting Rights Concerns

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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