The new Harris County Clerk, Diane Trautman, is proposing to implement County wide voting centers in Harris County. Currently, for early voting, you can vote anywhere in the County, but on election day you must vote in your home precinct. The proposed change would allow voters to vote anywhere for both early voting and on election day. One advantage of this system is that you will no longer have voters appearing at a precinct on election day only to be told they are registered in another precinct, and thus have to go to second location, which may deter them from voting at all.
I attended a meeting earlier this week relating to this change and have attached information that was shared at the meeting. There were several concerns raised at the meeting by those attendance. One was that the proposal is being rushed. Everyone in the Clerk’s office is new, since all employees from the previous Clerk’s office were fired at the beginning of the year, so there is no institutional knowledge relating to the voting machines, which have had problems in the past. It was suggested that the new employees work through at least one and preferably more elections, to learn what kind of problems they my run into before going County wide.
State law regarding this change outlines the requirements for approval by the Secretary of State, one of which is that “the computerized voter registration list allows instantaneous verification that a voter has not already voted”. An election judge in attendance said at a recent election, after a person voted, that vote was not able to be seen by another machine in the same room. If this is the case, imagine how long it might take if someone has voted in Kingwood to reach machines in Clear Lake. With over 700 polling locations and more that 2,000,000 voters on the roles, it is going to take a powerful computer system and wi-fi to have instantaneous results, and the current system does not provide this.
In addition, the Secretary of State’s advisory says after the first year of implementation, existing polling locations could be reduced by 50%. The Clerk’s representative in attendance said that there were no plans to reduce polling locations, but when pressed, reluctantly admitted that 10-15%, or over 100 locations, might be cut, but there is no guarantee that many more could be cut, which could lead to huge lines at the remaining locations.
There are three more meetings next week and if you have questions or concerns I urge you to attend. The last attachment shows the time and place of those meetings. If you cannot make any of these, let your County Commissioner know your opinion either through e-mail or in attendance at the Commissioner ‘s meeting on February 12 where the decision will be made to proceed to implement the change for the upcoming May elections.
Meetings this week:
- February 4 – 6:30 pm: Grayson Community Center, 13828 Corpus Christi Street, Houston, TX 77015
- February 5 – 6:00 pm: Klein Cain High School, 10201 Spring Cypress Road, Houston, TX 77070
- February 6 – 6:00 pm: Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Road, Houston, TX 77055
I must have missed the meeting in KW or other NE Harris venue.
This is a recipe for debacle, is this the new county judge’s first initiative or Trautman’s pet project for discouraging turnout?
At this point it seems assured of passage.
They really should run a couple of elections first before they make such a huge change. While this system may make it convenient for people who would prefer to vote close to where they work, they already had that opportunity for a full two weeks. I feel this system will disenfranchise those unlucky voters who live in one of those 100 precincts which would no longer be a voting site. They would not have the same opportunity as everyone else in the county to vote in their home precinct. Reading through Trautman’s documentation, it does not appear to be very detailed, or accurate in predicting the expense of making this change. I also don’t trust the process by which they will arrive at the decision as to which precincts will be shut down, and where the voting centers will be placed.