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9,000 votes an hour: Harris County residents are turning out to vote in droves

Prior to early voting in 2020, Harris County had a single day of 100,000 voters. That happened each of the first four days this year.

Updated at 12:23 p.m. with new voting numbers. Above video is from Inside Texas Politics about early voting impact on the election.

There is a ferocious appetite to vote in Harris County, which is home to Houston, the most populous city in the state.

Records in the county are falling left and right, and the blistering pace shows no signs of letting up.

In fact, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins says they’ve been averaging up to 9,000 votes an hour. 

For the first four days of early voting, there were more than 100,000 voters each day.

“Before this year, there was a single day in history where 100,000 Harris County voters had cast their votes through early voting,” Hollins said on Y’all-itics.

To listen to Hollins' full conversation with the Jasons on this week's episode of Y'all-itics, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen right here: 

In terms of the total voters to date, Harris County has had the most, by far, of any Texas county. 

But when looking at the percentage of registered voters who have gone to the polls, the excitement is palpable in many other counties as well.

In North Texas, for instance, the Secretary of State’s Office says nearly 37% of all registered voters in Collin and Denton counties have already voted, either by mail or in-person by the end of the day on Oct. 19.

The number is just under 28% in Dallas County and nearly 26% in Tarrant County.

Like many voters, Hollins and his team in Harris County kept thinking the surge would calm down and the numbers would dissipate.

That hasn’t happened yet.

And he thinks voters will just keep coming.

“After that huge day one, we said alright, we’ll come back to reality tomorrow,” Hollins said. “And then it happened again. And it happened again. And it happened again. And so our expectations have been blown through the roof.”

Hollins says roughly 10% of the votes have been cast at drive-through voting locations.

And they’ve noticed voters are finishing the ballot – one of the longest in the country – faster than anticipated.

Instead of the expected 10 to 20 minutes, Hollins says voters are taking more like five to seven minutes. 

“Maybe it’s because they’re, essentially, mimicking a straight ticket.  They’re just moving through going Dem, Dem, Dem, Dem, Dem or R, R, R, R, R.  But we are seeing those lines move really quickly,” he said. “The bottleneck appears to be not the number of voting machines at a location in most cases, but it’s the number of check-in machines. Checking in seems to be the relatively slowest part of the process.”

In response, Harris County has rolled out hundreds of additional check-in machines.

And the numbers are even more staggering when you consider the fact that the voter surge is taking place against the backdrop of COVID-19.

Hollins says they’ve only had one worker test positive so far.

“What we did in those situations was we sent every single election worker home, brought in an entirely new crew, had that voting center sanitized and then reopened it in less than an hour," he said. "And we’ve been fortunate in those situations. Aside from that one election worker in question, all those other election workers that have gone for rapid testing have come back negative.”

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