Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis informed voters of the county’s preparations for the November elections on Oct. 3.

Speaking at the headquarters of the November elections in NRG Arena, Ellis warned voters of the increase in mail-in ballot rejections since the passage of Senate Bill 1, which he described as “one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation.”

“Harris County is committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to freely ... cast their ballot,” Ellis said. “We're doing our part to fight voter suppression and remove obstacles where we can under the law.

According to prior Community Impact reporting, 14.2% of mail-in ballots statewide were rejected during the March 1 primary compared to just 0.8% of the nearly 1 million mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election.

To date, Tatum said his office had received and processed over 66,000 applications for mail-in ballots, and that eligible voters should expect to receive their ballots between Oct. 8-10, giving them about 30 days to review and cast their ballots.

Tatum said the county’s four card, double-sided mail-in ballot will be the largest in the state.

“On Election Day, voters should know that it’s probably going to take a little bit longer to vote in person because the ballot is so large,” Tatum said.

He added that the county will have 99 polling locations open for early voting from Oct. 24-Nov. 4 and 782 polling locations on Election Day on Nov. 8.

Elections prep

Tatum announced a number of improvements upon the elections process that saw former Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria resign. When asked specifically about the 10,000 uncounted mail-in ballots from the March 1 primary, Tatum said protocols have been put in place to avoid a similar issue for the midterms.

“[With] the things that I’ve seen the team implement and that I’ve seen take place during the logic and accuracy testing which was here [at NRG Arena] a couple of weeks ago, we’re on the right track to ensure that type of thing doesn’t happen in this coming election,” Tatum said.

His office is also in the process of training over 1,600 election judges, including presiding and alternate judges.

“We have revamped our training program to give our election judges more hands-on processing and setting up the machines and troubleshooting machines to the extent that the machines encountered some problem on the Election Day,” Tatum said.

In total, Tatum said his office has around 5,000 total election workers but would feel more comfortable with an additional 1,000.

On the voter side, Tatum encouraged residents to show up for his office’s Q&A sessions, at which they can test out the voting machines and feel prepared by Election Day. He said his office has added a small device to its voting machines to help voters insert paper ballots at the correct angle to avoid paper jams.

Both Ellis and Tatum encouraged voters to cast their ballots before Election Day.

“Don’t wait until the last minute—make your vote heard early,” Tatum said.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11; to view a sample ballot, visit harrisvotes.com.