— Diane Trautman (@dtrautman) March 6, 2020
According to Trautman’s statement, political parties contract with the county clerk’s office to administer the election, and the parties are responsible for agreeing on the polling locations and staffing election workers; the county clerk’s office is responsible for providing equipment and tabulating results.
This year, the political parties rejected the county’s proposal of hosting a joint primary election, which would have allowed voters to vote on any available machines, Trautman said. As such, an equal number of voting machines were allocated for each party, with each machine preprogrammed with the ballot for either the Republican primary election or the Democratic primary election—not both.
According to a report from Community Impact Newspaper’s partner ABC 13 Houston, as Harris County experienced extremely high voter turnout, with Democrats outvoting Republicans 3-1 in some locations, this resulted in long wait times for many voters. For example, the last voter to cast his vote at Texas Southern University was Hervis Rogers, who waited in line for more than six hours to cast his vote at 1:30 a.m. March 4.
“We did the best with what we had and what we believed was fair and equitable by allocating equal amounts of equipment to each party,” Trautman said in a statement. “However, we take full responsibility for the long lines and wait times and apologize to the voters and communities who were affected.”
In her statement, Trautman added that while her office has made several changes over the past 15 months to promote equity at the polls—including the implementation of countywide polling, expanded early voting hours and locations, enhanced election judge training and the addition of new college campus polling locations, such as Texas Southern University—there is still room for improvement.
Looking ahead to the May 26 primary runoff election and even further to the November general election, Trautman added her office would work to address the issues the county experienced March 3.
“We will re-evaluate machine allocations and turnout projections based on both the data we have available and feedback from the community for the primary runoff election,” Trautman said. “Moving forward, the voters of Harris County have my commitment to working together to make sure the November general election is a success. There will be more than 50 early voting locations and approximately 750 Election Day polling locations.”