HOUSTON- As Harris County election officials are bracing for roughly a quarter of the more than 2.2 million registered voters in Harris County to come to the polls on Election Day, one Houston City Council Member is urging them to double check their plan to avoid the long lines his district saw during primary election night in March.
“We were asking questions: what happened? What went wrong?” said Robert Gallegos, Houston City Council Member District I, whose district covers parts of the East End and Southeast Houston.
On primary election night in March, hundreds of voters in Gallegos’ district were still lined up three hours after the polls closed, with some scrambling after last minute voting location changes.
On Tuesday, he re-iterated the same message he and state lawmakers from Houston, including Sen. Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Carol Alvarado, gave to Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart when they met just after the primary.
“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen on November the 8th,” said Gallegos.
Stanart told KHOU on Tuesday that political parties, not the county, were running the show that night in March and underestimated the turnout.
“They did not estimate high enough to have enough voting machines,” said Stanart. “They determine the voting locations also. They just got surprised. We got surprised, too.”
However, Stanart says his office is ready for November 8 and has a plan to handle as many as 600,000 voters that day.
“We look at historical models, and the numbers that we saw in early voting typically shows you our total numbers are gonna be higher,” said Stanart. “Now it’s kinda slowed down a little bit, so we’re tweaking it every day as we go along to anticipate.”
Stanart says they’ll deploy nearly all of their voting machines, significantly more than were used on the primary election night, and keep the remainder on standby for any unexpected issues. Even then, he says anyone that waits until Election Day to vote will probably have to wait in line.
Both Stanart and Gallegos are offering the same advice to voters.
“The best thing to do is vote early,” said Gallegos.
Voters have until Friday to vote early and can vote in any early voting location in their county.
(© 2016 KHOU)