How We Helped More Than 2,000 Voters Cast Their Ballots
Traditionally, many people wait to cast their votes on Election Day. Some wait because the day is particularly meaningful, and others wait because that is the day that they could make it to the polls.
But this year, in our state’s most populous and diverse county, Harris County, people headed to the polls on the morning of Election Day found polling locations that had not yet opened or were severely delayed in opening due to technical malfunctions. We received numerous reports to our 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, including reports that one polling place did not open until after 11 AM, even though the Texas Election Code requires the polls to open at 7 AM, four hours earlier.
Accordingly, many people who had woken up early that day to cast their ballots before going to work or handling childcare responsibilities were forced to leave before they could make their voices heard. Many of the impacted polling locations were located in Houston’s most historically diverse neighborhoods, like Sunnyside and Second Ward, which disproportionately impacted voters of color.
We felt that this was unacceptable. Everyone deserves to have an equal opportunity to participate in our democracy, no matter what neighborhood they live in. So we sued Harris County, alongside the ACLU of Texas and representing the Texas Organizing Project, asking a court to order them to keep the polls open for an additional hour on Election Day, until 8 PM, so that voters could have an additional opportunity to cast their ballots. Earlier that same day, Bell County, which experienced similar delays, had already extended their voting hours until 8 PM through a court order.
This was not the first time we had to file litigation to keep the polls open due to polls opening late on Election Day. In 2018, we sued Harris County over the same issue, and in 2020, we sued Hidalgo County. Both times, we were able to secure an additional hour of voting time on behalf of people impacted by late openings on Election Day.
After filing our lawsuit, we won a Temporary Restraining Order in the case, successfully extending voting hours in Harris County. Any eligible voter who was able to get in line at the polls between 7-8 PM was entitled to cast a provisional ballot.
Voters wait in line outside Marshall Middle School, one of several polling places in Houston being kept open an hour longer after polls opened late with issues including election machine technical problems that caused delays in voting. Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
Unfortunately, while voters were casting their ballots during the extra hour of voting, the Texas Supreme Court stayed that order, halting any additional votes from being cast.
However, as required by the Texas Election Code, on November 22, 2022, Harris County certified its election results, ultimately including the over 2,000 provisional ballots cast by Harris County voters who were able to get to the polls between 7-8 PM thanks to our lawsuit. We are extremely proud to have upheld those voters’ rights and will continue to defend any other challenge against them.
Throughout the election period, our Voting Rights Program protected Texans' right to vote across the state.
You can read more about our 2022 Election Protection program here: Our Election Protection Work Was A Success This 2022 Midterm Election