Texans cast their ballots in record numbers on the first day of early voting, even in the midst of a pandemic. Some Texas counties shattered previous records including Collin County where more than 39,000 people voted today compared to about 31,000 on the first day of early voting in 2016.
While there were no major systematic issues at polling places in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin or Denton Counties, NBC 5 Investigates tracked down problems including reports of voting machines crashing, poll workers that didn’t show up because of COVID-19 quarantine and reports of voters left waiting in long lines.
Even after the polls closed, the line at the Richardson Civic Center was still snaked back and forth across the front of the building. The voters who made the 7 p.m. cutoff were allowed to stay and cast their ballots. Some told NBC 5 Investigates they waited nearly five hours.
ONLINE: Your Voter Guide for the 2020 November General Election is here, with information on Federal, State and Local Races
“There's so many more people than there was last time,” said Richardson resident, Pat Christley
In Fort Worth's Stop 6 neighborhood, frustrations flared as some found waits that exceeding four hours and a handful of voting machines crashed. That location has a small voting room with only about a dozen machines.
“They got the smallest voting place in there. and you talk about COVID-19 that place is too small. Why would they set us up in here? That's wrong,” said Tarrant County voter, Barbara Dixon who waited four hours to vote.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Tarrant County election officials said they quickly got the machines back online and suggested people use the county's larger early voting locations when possible.
Meanwhile, in Keller and Euless, some of the earliest voters arrived to a surprise shut-down this morning.
Three voting sites were closed because 25 poll workers were forced to quarantine after they were exposed in an election training class to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“So, in consultation with our public health department, they felt like the best thing to do would be to ask all the people who were in that training class to quarantine,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
The county had all three of the affected sites up and running about three hours after they were supposed to open.
Across the region, election officials urged people to have patience and plan ahead.
“Pick a time that may not be the heaviest time of voting. That's usually mid-morning, midafternoon and middle of the week are optimum times. If you don't have to wait till the last minute,” said Collin County elections administrator, Bruce Sherbet.
But in Dallas county, the long waits for the first day of early voting were compounded by a lack of information.
Voters checking the county's polling place wait-time website found only question marks posted for some voting locations.
County officials said they plan to reach out to election judges at those voting sites to remind them to update their location’s wait time information throughout the day.
Early Voting Wait Times
- Dallas County voting location wait times (green <15 minutes; yellow 15-30; red >30)
- Collin County voting location wait times (green <20 minutes; yellow 20-40; red >40)
- Tarrant County voting location wait times (green <29 minutes; yellow 30-44 minutes; orange 45-59 minutes; red >60 minutes; blue means no data available.)
- Denton County does not report wait times.
Voting locations are open at different times on different days. Click here to see a schedule by county. Anyone standing in line at when the polling location closes will be allowed to vote.
There were some voting machines that crashed in Dallas. NBC 5 heard complaints from some party poll watchers about machines shutting down at the Samuel Grand Recreation Center near Interstate 30 and Grand Avenue. The county told NBC 5 that problem was taken care of.
In University Park, there were early reports of problems with the check-in process where the county later said that the location was processing 112 voters per hour. And the electronic voting books used to check-in voters were handling about two people per minute.
NBC 5 Investigates heard there was some issues with the check-in process, but the election’s department said it was simply large crowds putting pressure on the system.
NBC 5 Investigates will be tracking any problems or concerns with the 2020 election.
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