UPDATE: Provisional ballots cast after 7 p.m. set aside, will not be counted pending review

Hours extended at all Harris County voting locations after machine malfunctions reported at several polls

HOUSTON – The Supreme Court of Texas halted an earlier order extending voting hours at all Harris County polling locations after delays and temporary closures due to machine malfunctions.

A Harris County District judge heard arguments after a temporary restraining order (TRO) was filed after numerous of problems were reported across the county.

Harris County Elections Administrator Tatum told KPRC that they worked with county and state attorneys to extend the hours at certain polling locations because of the delays. He said they assessed each situation and took a look at all of the affected locations before making the decision.

The district court judge determined all polling locations in Harris County would stay open until 8 p.m.

The judge noted that voters in line before 7 p.m. will cast regular ballots. Anyone who joined the line after 7 p.m. will be casted as provisional ballots that include a checkbox indicating it is connected to the TRO.

However, the state’s highest court issued this order stating, “The district court’s temporary restraining order issued today in Cause No. 2022-73765, Texas Organizing Project v. Harris County, et al., is stayed. Voting should occur only as permitted by Texas Election Code Section 41.032. Later cast votes should be segregated.”

As a result, Tatum said any provisional votes that were cast after 7 p.m. would not be counted based on Texas Election Code Section 41.032.

“All voters who were standing in line after 7 p.m. will no longer be able to cast a provisional ballot. Any voters that were standing in line at 7 p.m. will continue to be processed. We are checking with our judges now to see where they are now with processing the last voters that were in line at 7 p.m.,” Tatum said during the press conference.

Here are 12 locations cited in the order that experienced machine malfunctions causing delays and temporary closures:

  • Ripley House on Navigation
  • Green House International Church on Ella
  • Bayland Community Center on Bissonnet
  • Saint Timothy Lutheran Church on Hargrave Road
  • Helms Community Learning Center on W 21st
  • Bruce Elementary School on Jensen Dr
  • Cypresswood Elementary on Cypress Point Ave in Humble
  • Baker Ripley on Fairmount Parkway in Pasadena
  • Sunnyside Multi Service Center on Cullen Blvd
  • West Gray Center on W. Gray St in Houston
  • Wainwright Elementary on Milwee St
  • Kashmere Multi-Service Center on Lockwood

A statement from Harris County Elections Administrator was released following the order:

“An order has been issued to extend voting hours until 8 p.m. across Harris County’s 781 polling locations. Anyone in line after 7 p.m. will need to vote on a provisional ballot. Voters will cast their ballot as normal, but place their paper voter record in a sealed provision ballot envelope instead of inserting into the scanning machine. All provisional ballots will be tabulated separately inside our Central Count station located at NRG Arena.

“Today included a handful of late starts at various polling locations, most significantly at the BakerRipley location on Navigation. The additional hour provides voters with the opportunity to cast their ballot if they were unable to do so as intended this morning. We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding these late starts and will provide more information as soon as we’re able. The Early Voting results will be posted after polls close at 8 p.m.”

Voters expressed their frustrations

It was anything but a walk in the park for voters in the East End of Houston.

The Baker Ripley polling location did not open up on time and voters ended up waiting hours to cast their ballots.

David Aguilar arrived around 5:30 a.m. and says poll workers didn’t arrive until around 6:00 a.m.

“They were clearly unprepared and nothing was set up, I mean nothing,” noted Aguilar.

Aguilar was not the only person confused and frustrated. Up for re-election, Congresswoman Silvia Garcia and Commissioner Adrian Garcia went to talk with concerned constituents to see what was causing the delays.

“It’s outrageous,” noted Congresswoman Garcia. “This is people’s right to vote.”

According to Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum, a key was missing that allowed the judge to access his equipment.

“And once we got the key, (that’s) when he set up. The workers walked out on him and couldn’t help the voters vote,” explained Tatum.

Congresswoman Garcia reiterated that she believes this was a misstep and there should have been a plan in place.

“If you’re going to turn people away, you should at least tell them where you need to go,” explained Garcia.

But the polling location issues did not deter everyone from waiting in line, coming back, and exercising their right to vote.

“I had plans to come today so it wasn’t going to stop me from coming, regardless,” noted voter Jennifer Thompson.

Thompson said she hopes others found different locations to vote or came back once everything is up and running.

“I think, given the social climate, if you see a change you want to make, this is the way to do it so,” noted Thompson. “It’s really important to do your duties and get out here and vote.”

She said she remembers coming out to vote with her grandparents in this area years ago. She said delays and long lines wouldn’t make a difference to her because she is determined to be a positive role model for her daughter.

“I want to instill that same understanding to her, especially as a Latino woman, for her to know her rights and help her know she has this power to vote,” said Thompson.

For Aguilar, after a five-hour wait, he finally voted and just hopes this doesn’t happen again.

“That is the lesson to be learned,” said Aguilar.

This was just one of a handful of locations across Harris County that saw some delays and hiccups on Election Day.

At Salyards Middle School in Cypress, the judge said at the beginning of the day they only had enough paper for 600 voters and started calling the county after she saw 200 voters in the first hour. She went on to say they ran out of paper just before 2 p.m. and had to shut down the polls until more arrived an hour later and they were up and running by 3 p.m.


About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.