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Texas Elections 2018

Judge Orders Extending Voting Until 8 PM At Nine Locations Across Harris County

A judge ordered the extension, following a lawsuit by the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
Long lines for the start of early voting snaked around the parking at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center near downtown Houston on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

Voting has been extended until 8 p-m at nine locations across Harris County. A judge ordered the extension, following a lawsuit by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas Organizing Project.

Here are the polling locations that will be open until 8 p.m. today:
• Iglesia Trinidad (0597) located at 11602 Bobcat Road, Houston, 77064-3100 in Harris County, Texas.
• Metcalf Elementary (Precinct 0882) is located at 6100 Queenston, Houston, TX 77084.
• Evelyn Thompson Elementary (Precinct 0061) is located at 220 Casa Grande Dr.
• Hampton Inn Katy Fwy (0055) is located at 5820 Katy Freeway at Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007-2102.
• Fiesta Mart, Inc. (0541) is located at 8130 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054.
• John Marshall Middle School (0046) is located at 1115 Noble Street, Houston, Texas 77009.
• HOAPV Community Building (0030) is located at 1810 Bluebonnet Place Circle, Houston, TX 77019-2999.
• Lone Star College Cypress Center (305 and 951) is located at 19710 Clay Road, Katy, 77449.
• Houston Community College Alief Center (0428) is located at is located at 13803 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77083

After several polling locations in Harris County failed to open on time this morning, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas Organizing Project sued the county.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday afternoon and the two groups alleged that the county was violating the Texas Election Code because polling locations that opened after 7 a.m. would not remain open to voters for 12 hours on Election Day as required by state law.

Polling locations across the state’s biggest county "not only failed to open at 7 a.m., but remained closed until well after 7 a.m.," the plaintiffs wrote. Voting was further delayed at some polling locations because of equipment issues, including sign-in and voting machines that weren’t working.

The two groups put forth affidavits from several Harris County voters who faced delays Tuesday morning and, in some cases, were kept from casting ballots before needing to head to work.

Among them was Jessica Hill, a local teacher who had to get out of line at 7:45 a.m. because she needed to be at work by 8 a.m. Hill had arrived at Marshall Middle School by 6:30 a.m. and was the first person in line to vote. But poll workers were locked out of the building until 6:47 a.m.

When they started letting voters in to vote, the sign-in machines were not working. She watched poll workers troubleshoot the machines until leaving at 7:45 a.m.

"Harris County has been a major flashpoint, if you will," Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said earlier in the day.

At least 18 polling locations in Harris County either did not open on time or were only partially open on time, with some locations at first operating with one or two machines when they were supposed to have eight or even 16, Stevens said.

Those sorts of issues are "typical of start-up issues on Election Day," said Hector de Leon, director of communications and voter outreach for the Harris County Clerk’s Office. He said the county has technicians stationed across the county so they can get to voting locations within 10 minutes of a technical distress call and get machines up and running.

"There's nothing atypical about this morning," de Leon said. "It's just the nature of Election Day morning."

His comments came before the lawsuit was filed. Harris County officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the suit.

Beyond violating the Texas Election Code, the delayed openings of polling locations and the county's failure to provide functional equipment at those polling locations also amount to a violation of the 14th Amendment, the plaintiffs argue.

"The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right, protected under the Equal Protection Clause from undue burden," they wrote in the lawsuit.

But the county's practice of late openings "effectively treats plaintiffs and voters in the precinct at issue differently from voters from other precincts within Harris County and around the state, who benefitted from polling locations offering 12 hours of open polls on Election Day," they argued.

That start-up issues in Harris County — which turned solidly blue in 2016 after a streak of thin electoral margins — have become "part and parcel" of Election Day is troubling to civil rights advocates.

Among the Texas Civil Rights Project's chief concerns is that Texans who faced delays and were unable to cast their ballots in the voting window before work would not be able to return before polls closed at 7 p.m.

The civil rights groups are asking the judge grant their request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary ruling that would require the county to keep open those nine polling locations until 8 p.m.

"Harris County is so big we expect there to be some issues there, but our problem is these are the same things that come up every election," Stevens said of the delayed openings and the long lines. "Unfortunately voters are bearing the brunt of that."

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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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