South Texas border county extends voting by 1 hour after late openings at several poll sites

Border Report

Laptop issues attributed to at least 6 school polling locations late openings on Election Day

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Hidalgo County, on the South Texas border, has ordered all of its polling locations to stay open one extra hour Tuesday after several opened late on this Election Day, Hidalgo County Election Administrator Yvonne Ramón announced.

Now, all of the county’s 74 polling locations will stay open until 8 p.m., Ramón said.

A Hidalgo County District Court Judge signed an order requiring all countywide polling places remain open for Election Day until 8 p.m., as per the Texas Election Code. Voters who are in line at the polling location by 7 p.m. may cast a regular ballot, however, voters who arrive at the polling location and/or get in line after 7 p.m. shall be required to cast a provisional ballot as per the Texas Election Code and the Texas Secretary of State.

“Making sure our voters have the opportunity to cast their ballot is our utmost priority,” Ramón said in a statement to media.  “Extending the closure of the polls to 8 p.m. will provide that opportunity to the voters of Hidalgo County.”

Hidalgo County officials said that a laptop issue prevented the check-in of voters in a timely manner at 10 polling locations.

Hidalgo County is one of only three counties out of Texas’ 254 counties that have had significant polling issues, so far, today, Texas Civil Rights Project President Mimi Marziani said in an online call with media on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before Ramón’s announcement.

Marziani named six schools that failed to open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, including: Edinburg North High School, and Monte Cristo Elementary School in Edinburg; Sorensen Elementary School in San Juan; Liberty Middle School in Pharr; and Stephen F. Austin School, and Mary Hoge Middle School in Weslaco.

Mimi Marziani is president of the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project. She held a call with media on Tuesday. (Online ZOOM photo)

Marziani said Hoge Middle School was the latest in opening its polling site, after 10 a.m. The others opened after 9 a.m., she said.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation. One thing we worry about is whether it prevented anyone from voting,” Marziani said via a Zoom call.

Marziani said the good news is that Hidalgo County allows voters to cast ballots at any polling site — not only at their designated location — so she is hopeful voters who were turned away on Tuesday morning were able to go elsewhere to vote.

Many of the Hidalgo County polling sites have curbside voting due to the high rate of coronavirus infections the county has been suffering. The county, with a population of 860,000, has had over 36,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 1,961 deaths.

Marziani, whose nonprofit is observing polling sites throughout the state, said the other Texas counties that had issues with polls opening late included Harris County, which includes Houston, and Upshur County, on the eastern side of the state, near Longview.

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