As with virtually all types of infrastructure across Houston, polling places weren't exempt from Harvey's wrath — meaning, as the November election approaches, you'll probably want to double-check your usual polling location before heading out to vote.
Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said at a press conference Wednesday that 35 polling locations were flooded or are currently being used as relief centers for flood victims, so they had to be moved. His office did not provide a full list of affected locations, but one example is Champion Forest Baptist Church in Cypress Creek, which has been moved to the Klein Multipurpose Center. Stanart said affected locations represent less than 5 percent of the usual 765 locations open on Election Day, which is November 7, and encouraged people to go to HarrisVotes.org to find their polling place. Instead of having 765 locations, there will be 735, Stanart said.
"Our message to the voters is, vote early. Because if you vote early, you don't have to worry about where your polling place has moved," he said.
Voters can cast a ballot at any of the 45 early voting locations open from October 23 to November 3.
So what happens if flood victims were displaced from their homes and are living elsewhere now? Stanart said there are a variety of options.
If displaced people are living outside of the county, they can request a mail-in ballot so they don't have to travel back here to vote in person. They can also just vote in the precinct where their flooded home or apartment is located if they are moved out temporarily. If they moved permanently, Stanart said, it would be wise to re-register the new address before October 10, but he added that it would still be fine to vote where they were registered pre-Harvey. Or, again, they can vote early anywhere.
Stanart said if flood victims lost their photo ID during Harvey, they could claim a "reasonable impediment" on an affidavit, explaining why they don't have the ID, then present two supplemental forms of ID, such as a bank statement, utility bill or birth certificate. Asked what flood victims should do if they literally lost all those types of documents to Harvey and don't have utility bills because they are displaced, Stanart said they would have to find a way to bring the proper documentation.
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"If you lost [your ID] and you don't have it, yes, it would be a reasonable [impediment]," he said. "But there's over 30 days, over a month until Election Day, so there's plenty of opportunity for them to get the ID that's required."
A lawsuit challenging Texas's photo ID law as having a disproportionate impact on minority voters remains on appeal in federal courts. That lawsuit prompted Texas to begin allowing people to still cast ballots by signing the "reasonable impediment" declaration if they didn't have a photo ID.
On the ballot this election season are a variety of Texas constitutional amendments related to property tax breaks for disabled first responders and veterans; home equity loan and credit union regulations; a $495 million Houston bond referendum going toward city building repairs, park and library improvements and police and fire equipment and upgrades; and $1 billion in pension obligation bonds to fund pensions for police and municipal employees.
Find your polling location and view your specific ballot here.