Parties hopeful extended hours will boost voter turnout in Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Polls across Texas are closed, including in Travis County, which stayed open two extra hours because freezing weather delayed the start of voting in the Austin area.

Democrats and Republicans in Travis County believe the extension of polling hours until 9 p.m. in Travis County could help turnout.

After winter weather and icy conditions pushed back the start of voting across Travis County, officials have elected to keep polls open until two hours later.

Polling locations in Travis County did not open until 11 a.m. Tuesday.

“In the interest of public safety and due to the inability to timely access the many public buildings used for polling sites, the opening of polling locations for the Democratic and Republican primaries was delayed,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.

Because of the delayed poll opening, the Secretary of State’s office was allowing sites to stay open past the regular 7 p.m. closing time.

“Extended polling hours will give all voters the opportunity to cast their ballots,” DeBeauvoir added.

There are 195 voting centers in Travis County.

Ballots cast after 7 p.m., but before the polls close, will be provisional, in accordance with Texas election laws. The votes will be included in the final tally, but results from the provisional ballots will not be included in Tuesday’s unofficial voting totals.

Voters may cast their ballot at any polling location, not just in their registered precinct.

The communications director for the Travis County Republican Party, Andy Hogue, released this statement:

“Later hours may increase turnout among last-minute voters — it might prove convenient for those with lengthy evening commutes. But this is causing some headaches for our Precinct Chairmen and Election Judges who have to arrange for later hours at the community centers, businesses, and church buildings they’re meeting at.There are three of us at TCRP headquarters answering questions from our election workers and precinct chairs. Our phone has been ringing off the hook all day.
We’re keeping track of changing Precinct Convention locations at http://www.tcrp.org.”

The Travis County Democrats are also reacting. Executive Director JD Gins released this statement to KXAN News:

“We have been monitoring the developments and now with the ruling the polls will stay open until 9pm and the clear weather, the TCDP believes almost everyone should have a chance to vote. With the 4 hour delay, the Democratic Party felt strongly there should at least be a two hour extension, which Judge Livingston granted. Since the polls have opened turnout has been strong, and if it keeps up at this pace we will have higher than average turnout between Early Voting and Election Day. The Democratic Party is happy the extension of voting hours and hopes everyone will get out and vote if they have not done so already, and reminds voters they can vote at any election polling location that is convenient for them.”

Outside of Travis County, most will stay with their normal plan of closing polling places at 7 p.m.

Bastrop County: 7 p.m.
Blanco County: 7 p.m.
Burnet County: 7 p.m.
Caldwell County: Democrats until 9 p.m., Republicans until 7 p.m.
Fayette County: 7 p.m.
Gillespie County: 7 p.m.
Hays County: 7 p.m.
Lampasas County: 7 p.m.
Lee County: 7 p.m.
Llano County: 7 p.m.
Mason County: 7 p.m.
Milam County: 7 p.m.
Williamson County: 7 p.m.

Earlier Coverage
Some poll workers were worried about the incoming winter storm, including Lee Basore. This will be his 52nd year volunteering on Election Day.

“The workers are the ones who will make this thing happen,” he said. “If they don’t have the workers, there’s nothing they can do about it if the workers aren’t there. They’re stuck.”

In Travis County, 3,200 people voted early. But there are still thousands who plan to hit the polls Tuesday.

“Will it impact my voting decision? Probably not,” said Travis County resident Arlyn Owens. “I’m still going to vote tomorrow, so hopefully if we do have weather…by the afternoon it’ll hopefully warm up so I’ll go vote.”

There’s also the possibility polls will stay open later if there is a delay, but polling locations cannot be kept open past 7 p.m. without a court order. State elections officials late Monday urged counties in the path of the worst weather to begin preparing for the scenario.

“If you determine that it is unsafe, it is best to open the location late, move the location, or close the location,” read the advisory from the Texas secretary of state’s office.

In Williamson County, all Round Rock, Leander and Hutto school district polling locations opened at 9 a.m. The Brushy Creek MUD Recreation Center polling location opened at 10:30 a.m., and polling locations at the Austin Community College in Round Rock opened at 11 a.m.

All other polling locations opened at 7 a.m.

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