Drive-thru voting locations in Harris County see greater numbers than in-person, despite challenges

An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Over 42,000 residents in Harris County voted through drive-thru polling locations in the first four days of early voting Oct. 13-16. The Humble Civic Center, for example, has seen almost 7,000 residents utilize its drive-thru voting option, according to unofficial voting numbers from the Harris County Clerk's office.

“I went through the drive through total in and out 15 minutes,” Houston resident Tu Fini said in a Facebook comment. “I have been in Chick fil a lines longer than voting today. It was great, organized and fast.”

The center is one of 10 drive-thru locations in Harris County. It will continue to serve voters until Election Day on Nov. 3, despite ongoing attempts to shut the sites down.

Drive-thru voting was first implemented by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins for the July primary runoff elections due to the coronavirus pandemic and has been continued for the November elections.

"My [No. 1] priority is to keep voters and poll workers safe," Hollins said in a July 22 press release. "The feedback we received from the Drive-Thru Voting pilot proves that voters felt safe exercising their right to vote and that it was an easy and efficient alternative to going inside a voting center."

Hollins' office also released a video detailing how voters can use the drive-thru system.

The Texas Republican Party filed a last-minute lawsuit against Hollins’ office Oct. 12 to restrict drive-thru and curbside voting to “only those Harris County registered voters who have submitted sworn applications.” According to the Texas Secretary of State's Office website, curbside voting is allowed upon request to an election officer.

The lawsuit was dismissed Oct. 13, and since then many of the drive-thru sites—each of them also a regular polling site—have seen more drive-thru voters than regular voters.

“Drive-thru voting makes sense to anyone who doesn't want to suppress the voice of the people,” said Angelica Luna-Kaufman, communications specialist for the Harris County Democratic Party. “We continue to believe in the importance of making voting as easy and as safe as possible.”

However, Luke Twombly, press secretary for the Texas Republican Party, said the party is taking the case to the Texas Supreme Court.

“We filed this case to ensure that no illegal votes would be cast and counted in this election,” Twombly said.

Ana Naught, coordinator of the nonprofit initiative Houston in Action, which focuses on increasing civic and political engagement, criticized the lawsuit as an attempt to “confuse voters.”

“We're glad the judge was able to see the lawsuit for what it was and let the work of community groups and organizers across the region play out as record-breaking first days of early voting,” Naught said.
By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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