Harris County Early Voters Storm the Polls in Record-Breaking Fashion

Harris County voters came out to the polls in record-breaking fashion on the first day of early voting Monday, with more than 67,000 voters casting a ballot from 8 a.m. until after 6 p.m, when lines were closed off.

The turnout shatters the 2012 early-voting record, when 47,000 voters turned out on day one. In just two and a half hours Monday morning, more than 15,000 people had voted, and by 4 p.m. more than 43,000 had been to the pollls. Throughout the day, the Harris County Clerk's Office reported that, on average, 6,000 people cast their ballots every hour.

While some voters reported on social media that wait times in line were as high as 45 minutes to longer than an hour, around 5 p.m. at the West Gray Multiservice Center, voters wearing suits and scrubs and everything in between said they waited for around 30 minutes, with the line extending outside and all the way back to the kiddie playground. Still, despite the out-the-door wait, some voters could be heard chit-chatting about how excited they were to cast a ballot this year.

"Is it usually like this?" one senior citizen asked a poll worker standing near the door.

"No, I've never seen it like this before," he told the woman.  A recent University of Houston poll found that Harris County is skewing Democrat this year, with Hillary Clinton leading by seven points over Donald Trump and Democratic district attorney candidate Kim Ogg leading Republican incumbent Devon Anderson by the same margin. The sheriff's race is essentially a dead heat, with Republican incumbent Sheriff Ron Hickman ahead of Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez.

While poll workers at the West Gray location said they had not noticed any problems or confusion with the voter ID law, the same UH poll suggested that this year's amended voter ID law, allowing those who do not have a photo ID to still cast a provisional ballot, could not be emphasized enough. Forty-five percent of those polled incorrectly believed that a photo ID was required, while 30 percent said they didn't know what the law was. 

So here's what the law is: If you do in fact have a photo ID — including a driver's license, passport, license to carry a handgun, DPS-issued election identification certificate, personal ID, military ID or U.S. citizenship certificate that includes a photo — you are required to bring it. If you don't have any of those, then don't fret: You can still vote after signing an affidavit explaining the "reasonable impediment" that has prevented you from having one of those — a reason election officials are not allowed to question. You will also have to show a different form of non-photo ID, including: a voter registration certificate, birth certificate, utility bill bank statement or a paycheck with your name and address on it.

Here's to short lines and I Voted stickers, y'all. 
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn