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Shorter wait times, more poll workers the goal for November election in Tarrant County

At some Tarrant County voting locations, people waited for hours to vote on Super Tuesday.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Elections officials in Tarrant County are assessing the issues associated with Tuesday's primary elections and looking for ways to improve come November.

In Tarrant County, 140,000 people took time out of their day Tuesday to go and cast their vote. For some people, that time was more than they expected. 

"More than three hours, it has been more than three hours," said voter Eluteria Rivera. "I just felt bad for those who had to go to work or had children to tend to."

"It was around 6:30," voter Stacy Chapa said of the time she showed up at the Diamond Hill/Jarvis library in north Fort Worth. She exited the poll three-and-a-half hours later, around 10 p.m.

"That is entirely too long and we’ve got to do work on that," said Tarrant County judge and chair of the election commission Glen Whitley.

People Tuesday tweeted photos showing big backups at some voting centers, including the library, and many complained there weren't enough voting machines, especially for Democrats.

But Whitley said the decision to split voters into machines by political party wasn't the county's; it was made by the political parties themselves.

"Over our strong objection, they said we want a group of machines that are only going to be used by Republicans and a group of machines that are only going to be used by the Democrats," he said.

So with the parties' approvals, Whitley said Democrats got about 1,000 voting machines and Republicans got about 1,700. Those allocations were based on 2019 and 2016 turnout numbers.

They also deployed more machines as needed where they could; some locations, like that north Fort Worth library, Whitley said, were too small.

Deborah Peoples, who heads Tarrant County's Democratic Party, told us this by email:

"We have always found that the best voting experience is when primary voters were greeted and checked in by members of their own party...  In many instances, voters saw very little wait time. Unfortunately, there were significant wait times in several locations and for that we apologize."

Whitley also mentioned the voting machines are new and poll workers and voters are still learning. He said there are lessons learned and changes will be made for the November general election.

"First off we will be using one machine," Whitley said, meaning parties will share the same machines. Also there will be more training on the machines, more poll workers and hopefully shorter wait times.

"What makes me feel real good is I didn’t see anyone walk away and say well, I give up," said voter Eluteria Rivera.

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