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Checking in on Voter Suppression in Harris County

By Russell H. Withers, General Counsel & Director of Policy November 2, 2022

In this piece for National Review Online last year, I discussed the numerous false narratives used by Democrats and the media when discussing proposed election reforms in Texas. One of the many reforms in the bill that ultimately passed was a prohibition on 24-hour voting, a pandemic measure Harris County (i.e. Houston, Texas) attempted to implement. I will remind you that 24-hour voting had never been used before, meaning that the prohibition of it suppresses nothing from the perspective of voters.

Harris County officials and a compliant media did not see it that way. To prohibit something never done before was not status quo, but rather oppressive voter suppression. In piece after piece after piece, the law was framed as a voter suppression bill and many of these pieces suggested motives based on race because some of the practices prohibited “were disproportionately used by voters of color.”

Given the fever pitch of this rhetoric, which completely sidestepped the fact that the bill expanded the number of hours polling locations are required to be open each day (i.e., polls that were required to operate for “eight” hours are now required to be open for “nine”), one would think that Harris County would take full advantage of the law to keep polling locations open for as many hours as the law permits. You will be shocked to learn that they are not doing that.

Under the new law, early voting locations are permitted to be open between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday, for a total of 16 possible hours each day. On Sunday, early voting may be open between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., for a total of 13 possible hours in the day.

According to Harris County’s own early voting guide, here are the hours during which their 99 early voting locations will be open during the early voting period:

There is not a single day during the early voting period in which early voting locations in Harris County will be open to the fullest extent permitted by law. By my count they have left a total of 47 hours off the table. That amounts to nearly two full additional days of early voting. According to their own terms, Harris County is engaged in a massive campaign of voter suppression, particularly during those extra hours “disproportionately used by voters of color.”


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