Harris County is making Texas history this voting season. Registered voters in Texas’s largest county, which is the third-largest in the nation, have historic access to the polls for the 2020 election.
Early Voting kicked off Tuesday, Oct. 13, with over 128,000 voters casting their ballot in person on the first day, and it will continue through Friday, Oct. 30. This election marks the longest Early Voting period in Texas history, with an additional six days added to help address challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Also in response to the pandemic, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins prioritized 23 S.A.F.E. initiatives to help voters safely cast their ballot without putting their health at risk. As part of S.A.F.E., which stands for Secure, Accessible, Fair and Efficient, Harris County has almost tripled the number of Early Voting locations from the 2016 election, with 122 voting centers. To properly staff the additional voting sites, Hollins has hired approximately 11,000 poll workers, almost double from 2016.
Voters have more options for casting their ballots thanks to the S.A.F.E. initiatives. Here are four ways Harris County registered voters can cast their ballot:
1. 24-Hour Voting: Harris County is the first and only county in Texas to offer 24-hour voting.
For the first time in Texas history, 24-hour voting will be available to registered voters in Harris County from Oct. 29 to Oct. 30 at eight locations. Harris County is one of two counties in the nation and the only county in Texas offering this option to voters during the election. This new time extension is a pivotal step for ensuring that essential workers with challenging work schedules like frontline medical professionals and retail shift workers have the opportunity to exercise their civic duty of voting.
To view polling locations offering 24-hour voting on Oct. 29, visit HarrisVotes.com/Locations.
2. Drive Thru Voting (DTV): DTV will allow Harris County voters to cast their ballot from behind the wheel for the first time.
Drive Thru Voting (DTV) was created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as a safer, socially distant alternative to walk-in voting for all voters. Harris County is the first jurisdiction in Texas history to create this new method of voting at a scale allowing any registered voter to cast their ballot without leaving the safe and secure confines of their vehicle.
DTV will be available at 10 locations throughout Harris County and will be open during the same hours as walk-in voting for both Early Voting and Election Day. To learn more about DTV, visit HarrisVotes.com/DTV.
3. This year, Harris County has tripled its number of polling locations and expanded its polling place wait-time tracking abilities.
Voters still have the option to vote the same way they’ve done in previous elections at 122 locations across the county during Early Voting and 80 locations on Election Day. As long as you are registered to vote in Harris County, you can go to any polling location during Early Voting or on Election Day. You can also check the wait time before you go at HarrisVotes.com/WaitTimes.
Keep in mind, during Early Voting from Monday to Saturday, voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except for the eight locations offering 24-hour voting that begins Oct. 29 through the morning of Oct. 30). On Sundays, voting hours are 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Election Day, voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4. Mail-In & Drop-Off: Eligible voters may cast their ballot by mail or by dropping off at Harris County’s designated ballot drop-off location.
You may vote early by mail if you are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria:
- Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the Early Voting period;
- Sick or disabled;
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.
Voters who qualify for Vote By Mail have several options to cast their ballot. You may mail your ballot using USPS, drop it off in person, or use a common or contract carrier, such as personal courier, FedEx or UPS, or other contracted mail service. Eligible voters who opt to vote via mail should return their ballot as soon as possible. All mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 7:00 p.m. CT on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, to be valid.
To drop off your mail-in ballot in person, your ballot must be returned to Harris County’s singular drop-off location at NRG Park, which can be accessed by car at Gate 9 on Kirby and Westridge. METRO and pedestrian entry is Gate 2 at Fannon and NRG Parkway. The drop-off location will have the same hours of operation as in-person polling places.
If you were approved for Vote By Mail but now want to vote in person, each voting option is available to you. You must bring your Vote By Mail ballot with you to the polls to vote in-person.
No matter how you choose to vote, Harris County’s dedicated poll workers are here to help you cast your ballot in a S.A.F.E. manner. Please visit HarrisVotes.com for more information and resources. Happy voting!