HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — After a record 1.6 million people cast their ballots in Harris County during the 2020 presidential election, officials reflected on what went right while also setting goals for future elections.
The county recorded a 67% turnout, the highest percentage since 1992.
"When you provide voters with greater access, they're more likely to exercise their right to vote,” Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said shortly after the last votes had been cast Tuesday night.
It was the first presidential election where Harris County voters could vote anywhere on Election Day.
More than 11,000 election workers helped ensure a smooth process across more than 800 voting centers. Hollins tripled early voting centers from 46 in 2016 to 122 sites this year. That figure included 10 drive-thru sites, where about 10% of early votes were cast. Those were new to Texas as was 24-hour voting.
"The No. 1 question I got about drive-thru voting was: 'Why didn't we do this sooner, and can you ensure that we have this in the future?'” Hollins said. “The answer is yes."
However, Hollins was only appointed to serve as County Clerk through 2020 after former clerk Diane Trautman resigned for health reasons.
Hollins’ senior staff member, Isabel Longoria, was recently appointed as Harris County's first-ever elections administrator.
Starting Nov. 18, she'll oversee elections and voter registration.
"You can be assured we're gonna keep innovating and making (voting) even easier, even safer, and even more accessible,” Longoria said Nov. 1.
On Wednesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo attributed the high turnout to not only elevated voter interest in this election, but also county investment in election infrastructure, a willingness to try new ideas, and commitment from election workers.
“I think we’ve set a new baseline, a new standard, not just in Harris County, but hopefully for the rest of the state and maybe for other counties outside the state, as well,” Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo said she wants to build on the achievements and increase voter registrations for the next election. However, she said results take money.
“I can’t speak for my colleagues on Commissioners Court, but I trust based on our decision this year to commit $30 million this year and the results that we had, I would hope that they would be as excited as I am to make sure that we’re fully funding an election that allows folks to participate that want to participate,” Hidalgo said.
The county judge is also pushing for new voting machines for the next election.
“They did great this election,” Hidalgo said. “We had some minor technical issues at some polls, and we addressed them, and it was fine, but we all know that we need better voting machines.”
Hidalgo said Harris County is at the final stages of procurement for those new machines.