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Long voting lines predicted for Texans in November

A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to shutter polling places without federal approval resulted in the closure of almost 1,700 polling locations from 2012 to 2018, according to a report by The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Photo: beatexasvoter.org

By Roz Brown
Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas — Long lines at Texas polling places on Tuesday are being blamed on too few voting machines and a higher turnout than expected.

But some voting advocates say it’s because Texas makes it hard to vote.

Voters encountered hours-long waits at polling places in heavily Democratic Party cities including Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, maintains it’s part of a systemic problem in the state.

He argues that too many Texas political leaders introduce legislation to discourage, rather than encourage voting.

“Anything that would possibly stifle participation, particularly among minority groups — those seem to be the measures that are always coming very close to being passed or passed,” Gutierrez states.

A report by civil rights group The Leadership Conference Education Fund found that Texas closed more polling places than any other state last year.

The study also noted that 44% of polling places around Waco in McLennan County — where newcomers are primarily black or Latinx — closed between 2012 and 2018.

Gutierrez says unless the state increases funding to upgrade voting machines and boosts the number of election workers, issues that plagued Texas voters on Super Tuesday will be repeated eight months from now.

“We’ll continue seeing those issues in November,” he states. “A lot of voting machines that are not up and running when they’re supposed to be, a lot of poll sites that failed to open because there’s not enough manpower or enough machines.”

Election officials in Harris County, home to Houston, blamed long waiting times on a higher than expected turnout, which was up 40% compared to 2016.

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