Politics

Harris County polling locations are still up in the air with about a month to go until the primary runoff

Harris County Democrats are criticizing their Republican counterparts for what they say is a lack of transparency in some election decisions.

In this July 14, 2020 file photo, a voter, right, shows her identification to a Harris County election clerk before voting, in Houston.

The upcoming primary runoff election in May is causing tension among Harris County's political parties, with Democrats accusing Republicans of delaying a determination of where polling sites will be across the county.

In partisan elections, like the May 27 primary runoff, both parties are tasked with working to choose polling locations. Odus Evbagharu, chair of the Harris County Democrats, said he’s been trying to do just that. But with about a month to go, he said his GOP counterparts have caused delays in the process.

Now Democrats are worried that what they perceive as a lack of transparency from the Harris County GOP will make voters feel like the current election process is unreliable.

"The Harris County GOP is clearly trying to sow chaos in order to support their false narrative and bad faith lawsuits, further unloading confidence in our democratic election process,” Evbagharu said.

The two parties reached out to the Harris County Elections Administrator's office last week for recommendations on polling locations, according to Evbhagharu. But he also said, Democrats have yet to see those recommendations come to fruition.

The Harris County GOP wants 375 locations, but Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria’s office is suggesting 260 polling locations based on data from past primary runoff elections.

The GOP is placing the blame for the delays on Longoria’s office, saying the drop in polling places this past year is why determining where voters can vote is so difficult.

"The Harris County GOP has asked the Elections Administrator's office to explain why the original list of 375 polling locations is not being used as stated in our contract with Harris County – but we still have not received an explanation," Harris County Republican Party Chairman Cindy Siegel wrote in a letter to Longoria last week. "We believe such a significant reduction in polling locations for the primary runoff will cause voter confusion and suppress voter turnout on May 24. The letter we sent today simply states our desire to follow the terms of the contract."

The primary election is set to take place May 24.

Another election is set to take place in less than a month, on May 7, when voters will weigh a series of constitutional amendments. Longoria’s office was tasked with choosing those polling locations, since it is a nonpartisan election.

In a statement, Longoria said she hoped the two parties could come to a solution soon.

“Harris County Elections is working closely with the political parties to help finalize polling places for the Primary Runoff Election on May 24,” Longoria said. “For Election Day this year, we will provide 260 locations, which doubles the access to polling places from prior primary runoffs. The parties will select the specific locations. We eagerly await their decisions so we may finalize planning on behalf of voters.”

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