Election Day underway in Harris County

By Cathy Hernandez - Reporter
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Half a million people were expected to vote in Harris County on Tuesday.

Voters hit the polls early at the Multi-Service center on West Gray.

“I did some research and I talked to family members and friends and got a feel for what I wanted to do,” said Ivana Nunez.

The University of Houston student voted for the first time.

“I'm hoping for the best so whatever happens, happens and hopefully it's positive,” said Nunez.

Her mother proudly joined her.

“It's our right to vote. You have a voice and every voice counts,” said Lillian Fuentes.

Many people were also making their voices count at Love Park Community Center in the Heights and in East Houston at the Ripley House.

“The first time voting was an experience I wanted to feel as an American citizen,” said Alexander Herrera.

The 19-year-old was the son of undocumented immigrants, so he said his vote was even more important.

“At first, I felt kinda nervous going up those stairs, but I came out and I'm like, 'I hope my vote does count in this country and I feel like it would,'” said Herrera.

Issues in Harris County

Voting rights advocates say some Houston voters had their polling stations changed at the last minute and were informed by hand-written signs posted on walls and trees.

Spokesman Zenen Perez of the Texas Civil Rights Project says most of the changes were in predominantly black areas of the nation's fourth-largest city.

"Some people had to go three locations before they got to vote," said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of the Texas chapter of Common Cause.

Election officials in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, did not immediately respond to AP calls seeking comment.

Other complaints among about 1,400 calls received from Texas on an Election Day hotline set up by nonprofits included scattered reports of voting technology malfunctions lines longer than an hour in parts of Houston and Dallas.

Gutierrez said many people complained of poll workers being misinformed about changes the state made after a federal court ruled Texas' voter ID law unconstitutional.

The poll workers were unaware they needed to provide voters who lacked photo IDs with "reasonable impediment forms" that allow them to vote, said Gutierrez.

"The public education campaign that the Secretary of State was supposed to have carried out was just underfunded and really poorly executed and has brought about massive amounts of confusion, it seems like," said Gutierrez.

On the last-minute polling station moves, Perez said the hotline had received six reports and "in some cases it was just a paper posted on a wall saying that polling station was closed without offering more information."

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2