Voting

Early voting kicks off in Harris County; voters should prepare for long ballot, officials say

There are over 20 pages of races and referenda for Harris County voters to decide on this year. 

Ashley Brown / Houston Public Media
Early voting began on October 24, and the Baker Ripley House was one of 99 locations that voters could cast their ballots at on Monday.

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There are over 20 pages of races and referenda for Harris County voters to decide on this year. That means if you go to one of 99 early voting locations in the county, expect it to take time to fill it out.

Early voting started in Harris County on Monday. Leah Shah, director of communications for the Harris County elections administration, and spoke to Craig Cohen on Houston Matters on Monday. She said the county already had over 7,000 ballots cast just a few hours into the start of the early voting period.

“We have a number of races, both statewide, local … so we’ve got between 90 to 103 individual contests depending on where you live and your unique ballot,” she said. She suggested in order to negotiate the long ballots, voters can print out their own sample ballot at HarrisVotes.com, and fill it out.

“You can actually print out that sample ballot with your selections ahead of time,” she said. “You’re not able to bring in a phone or device of that nature; but a printed ballot is acceptable. That way you can quickly make your selections and kind of help speed up that process.”

Shah said they still anticipate it taking five to seven minutes if the voter is fully prepared. Shah suggested early voters go early.

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“That’s what the early voting period is for,” she said. “We really like to tell voters that November 8, which is Election Day, is the last day to vote.”

As some went out to cast their ballots early, some said they ran into problems at one particular polling location. William Terry cast his ballot at the Baker Ripley House in Houston’s East End on Monday. He said he always votes early to avoid the crowds.

“It was a little unorganized,” he said. “A couple of computers were down and it took a little bit longer than expected, but it looks like a pretty good turnout.”

Shah said the biggest impact a long ballot will have is going to mostly impact lines for Election Day.

“As far as tallying those votes, the process is the same,” she said. “But those wait times could impact it.”

Shah said that if voters are in line by 7 p.m. that night, they will be allowed to vote.

The state recently announced they were sending elections inspectors to early polling locations in Harris County. But Shah said she does not believe it will affect voters.

“You can go to any polling location across the county,” she said. “We’ll continue to remain transparent.”

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