Elections

2022 early voting turnout in Harris County slightly lagging behind last midterm in 2018

A total of 60,834 voters cast in-person ballots on the first day of early voting in Harris County, which was 2,354 lower than the first-day turnout in 2018.

Voting March Primary
Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
People make a line to vote in the primary elections at the West Gray Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Houston.

Halfway through the second day of early voting, more than 110,000 people in Texas' largest county had cast their ballots in a key midterm election for the Houston area and the state at large.

More than 60,000 in-person votes were tallied in Harris County on Monday, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 8 general election, while nearly 22,000 mail ballots also had been submitted, according to the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office. It announced Tuesday that another 28,000-plus voters had showed up to the polls as of 1 p.m. on Day 2.

At the top of the longest ballot in the state and possibly the country – with at least 90 individual races, depending on a voter's precinct – is a heated gubernatorial race between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke. Voters in Harris County, which includes Houston, also are deciding who will be the county's top executive as incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo battles Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, among many other races.

Nadia Hakim, a spokesperson for the Harris County elections office, said Tuesday it has received "some complaints of the more popular locations having longer lines." Twenty of the county's 99 polling places during early voting saw at least 1,000 voters apiece Monday, with more than 2,000 voting at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 1475 W. Gray St.

Registered voters in Harris County can cast ballots at any of its polling places during early voting and on Election Day, with Hakim saying voters should expect it to take a minimum of 5-7 minutes to work their way through the ballot. An online tool at harrisvotes.com allows voters to check wait times at all the polling locations. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. during 10 of the 12 days of early voting, which concludes Nov. 4.

"We're telling folks to make sure you go to harrisvotes.com, print out a sample ballot and take handwritten notes," Hakim said. "Do your research ahead of time."

RELATED: How to vote in the Houston area for the 2022 midterm election

Monday’s turnout of 60,834 lagged a little bit behind the last midterm election in 2018, when 63,188 voters cast in-person ballots at a total of 46 locations across Harris County. Nearly 53 percent of the county's 2.3 million registered voters ended up voting in that election.

Turnout surged in 2020, when Democrat Joe Biden unseated Republican Donald Trump as United States president. More than 100,000 in-person ballots were cast in Harris County on each of the first four days of early voting that year. But turnout is usually higher in presidential years, making 2018 a better comparison for this year. More than 68 percent of the county's 2.43 million registered voters turned out in 2020.

Harris County's number of registered voters has since climbed to 2.57 million. Hakim said voter turnout on Monday, while lower than the first day of early voting in 2018, exceeded the combined total from the first four days of early voting during the March 1 primaries.

"It's really hard for us to say, ‘Oh, we're projecting this much or that much,'" Hakim said. "We look at the past turnout numbers and plan for more, obviously, and try to calculate a trend as best as we can."

RELATED: Harris County and Texas races to watch

Hakim said the first two days of early voting have come with some kinks, which she described as typical. Overnight storms left a few polling places without power early Tuesday, she said, but those locations had generators and were able to open to voters within a few minutes of the scheduled start time.

Hakim said there also have been some technical glitches, although nothing that impacted vote tabulation or voters' ability to cast ballots. For example, a machine used to check a voter's registration status and assign the appropriate ballot malfunctioned at one of the locations, according to Hakim, who said that polling place was subsequently forced to operate with one of those machines instead of two.

"We have tech support," Hakim said. "They are just there to answer (election) judge's calls day in and day out, from an hour before the polls open until an hour after the polls close."

A total of 11,030 voters cast in-person ballots Monday in Montgomery County, which is north of Houston. In Fort Bend County, which includes part of Houston along with suburbs to the southwest, 16,769 people voted Monday.

Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery counties are the most populous in the Houston area – with more than 6.1 million combined residents – according to U.S. Census data from 2020.

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