Nov 08, 2016

A Few Problems, Some Confusion at the Polls in Central Texas on Election Day

The voting line got long early at Austin City Hall on election day. Benita Ouzde/Reporting Texas

The voting line got long early at Austin City Hall on election day. Benita Ouzde/Reporting Texas

Update: UT Student Misses Her Chance to Vote by One Minute
Posted: 8:31 p.m.

Emily Hogue had planned to vote early, but kept putting it off. She showed up at the polling location on the University of Texas at Austin campus at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday night — right after election officials closed the line to any more voters.

Hogue, 19, a sophomore, said she had planned to vote earlier in the day, but was delayed by her classes.

“I was going to go before class, but some things came up,” she said, “and then I had class till 7:00, so I guess I just missed the cutoff for the line.”

Hogue registered in May, and had been ready to cast her ballot during early voting, but procrastinated until it was too late.

“I have no excuse,” said Hogue. “Every day, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll do it today’ or ‘I can still do it tomorrow’.”

The polling location at the Flawn Academic Center opened about a half-hour late because of technical problems with a voting machine for people with disabilities. A polling official who would not give his name said that despite the delay, allowing people in line after the cutoff time would raise questions about whether officials were being unfair.

Rather than complain, Hogue said she wishes she would have arrived at Flawn earlier.

Asked who she would have chosen on her ballot if she had been able to make it in line, she said, “That’s for me and the ballot only.”

Reported by Michael Thompson

Update: Registration Snafus Force Students to Cast Provisional Ballots
Posted at 6:59 p.m.

Raven Ross, 21, was one of three Texas State University students who had to fill out a provisional ballot at the Brookdale Senior Living polling place in San Marcos because they did not register by Election Day.

“I’ve registered twice,” said Ross, a mass communications major. “Once in class my sophomore year and again a month or two ago.”

According to Patty Polk, the alternate election judge at the site, all three students were registered in counties other than Hays. At 6:24 p.m., 28 provisional ballots had been completed at the polling place. The green provisional forms go to the elections office instead of being counted on election day. Polk says she anticipated more provisional ballots before voting ended.

Voting officials will decide whether to count the provisional ballots when the formal canvas occurs.

— Reported by Anna Casey

Update: Long Day for Bastrop Poll Workers
Posted 6:55 p.m.

Poll workers arrived at the First Baptist Church in Bastrop at 6 a.m. and said they don’t expect to leave before 7:30 p.m.

“People understand the process, so we are just providing friendly instruction and avoiding intimidation,” said Cliff Sparks, 67, who has been a poll worker for 26 years.

Sparks said one woman in her late 70s told him she had voted for the first time this year.

Aside from some voters who did not turn off their cellphones, he said there were no incidents.

Karen Chalmers, a Trump voter, said she intentionally waited until today to vote.

Chalmers, a retired elementary school teacher, said she worries about finalizing her vote without hearing the latest news about candidates.

“I think that there’s stuff that came out in the last few days that can influence you for either candidate,” Chalmers said. “Hillary could have been indicted today, so I just like the idea of voting on ‘The Day.’”

Chalmers said she likes Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate.

“If Trump makes it in there, I’m praying that Pence will be a good vice president to steer him,” she said. “Trump went wrong in so many ways, but at first he pulled a lot of people because he talked about doing things that most politicians haven’t. Then he opened his mouth and said horrible things which alienated some people, and whether he is able to do the things he’s said is yet to be seen.”

— Reporting by Betty Arreola

Update: Voting “Slower Than Past Elections” at Wimberley Polls
Posted at 6:30 p.m.

VFW Post 6441 Hall has been quiet on Election Day and poll worker Peg Wolfe expects it will stay that way. As voting headed into the home stretch, a fresh wave of rainfall hit Wimberley when most voters are expected to be leaving work. Typically, the precinct has seen a final push of voter traffic during that time.

“I’ve been surprised,” said Wolfe, 67. “It’s slower than past elections.”

The precinct often attracts veterans and retirees, including from the nearby Woodcreek subdivision. County Commissioner Will Conley, a Republican, visited the polling station earlier that day.

Wolfe said poll workers were told that two-thirds of registered voters who usually vote at the precinct had voted early. “I think so many people were afraid of Tuesday being busy that they voted early,” she said.

Although there was a line at 6:30 a.m. when poll workers arrived, there hasn’t been one since. There haven’t been any issues with voting machines or voters without identification.

— Reporting by Dagney Pruner

Update: More Heavy Turnout Near Texas State
Posted at 6:04 p.m.

Betty Morgan, 67, and Charles De Crane, 80, sat in their usual chairs at the entry to Brookdale Senior Living Solutions in San Marcos, but Tuesday was much busier than usual, they said.

The friends said they cast their ballots earlier for Trump at the senior community where they live and which is also a popular polling place for young voters at nearby Texas State. Nearly 600 people had cast their ballots by 5 p.m., according to election officials at the site, and 17 provisional ballots were completed.

Morgan says she usually helps greet people as they come in to Brookdale, but on Election Day she pointed them to the room with the voting machines.

“He has business acumen,” said DeCrane, about his reason for voting for Trump. DeCrane says he owns a company in Louisiana that manufactures packaging equipment.

“I’m tired of the dynasty of the Democrats,” said Morgan, who said she was a teacher for 35 years before retiring. Despite Trump’s claims that the election could be rigged, Morgan said she would “accept the outcome, whatever it is.”

— Reporting by Anna Casey

Update: Lines Short at Another Cedar Creek Location
Posted at 5:44 p.m.

About 250 people had voted at the Cedar Creek United Methodist Church polling location in Bastrop County as of 5 p.m., according to alternate election judge Efrain Escobedo, 64. Wait times have been two or three minutes at most, Escobedo said.

— Reported by John Savage

Update: Wimberley Poll Workers Fear Rain Will Dampen Turnout
Posted at 5:38 p.m.

The Wimberley Community Center in Hays County has been the busiest polling station in the town, but there was only a short line this morning. Volunteers said they expected traffic to increase after people got out of work but that heavy rainfall could deter some voters from coming out.

Rocky Boschert, an investment manager and volunteer at the Wimberley Democrats tent outside the center, said he’s seen many more female voters than in previous general elections.

Some women have approached the tent and started to cry about getting to vote for a woman for the first time.

“I know a lot of Republicans that have voted for Hillary this election,” said Eric Quinn, another volunteer at the tent.

However, Arlie Blankenship, a musician who carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, said he thinks Trump will do better than expected because “closet Trump voters,” including some independents, will choose him.

“We’re voting conservative, not necessarily Republican,” said his wife, Ricky.

— Reporting by Dagney Pruner

Update: More on the Zimmerman-Randalls dispute
Posted at 5:19 p.m.

Sandy Martin, the election judge at the Randalls in Cedar Park, elaborated on the changing rules on electioneering:

”The signs get bigger and bigger as the years go on, so at one point there was construction on the road and big old humongous signs. Randalls said this is a safety issue, and made a rule to push the signs way out, basically on the street. Everyone has been compliant for the most part.”

Randalls representatives were attempting to put together a response to Don Zimmerman, who was running for re-election for Austin City Council District 6 (see ‘Candidate, election judge squabble over sign’ posted at 3:56 p.m.).

— Reporting by Hojun Choi

Update: No Wait at Wyldwood Baptist in Bastrop
Posted at 5:12 p.m.

Voting has been slow in the unincorporated community of Cedar Creek in Bastrop County, according to the election judge at the Wyldwood Baptist church polling location.

About 300 people have voted today as of 4:30 p.m. The election judge expected an influx of voters this evening.

No voter had to wait more than a couple of minutes to vote, the election judge said. She declined to identify herself and asked a reporter to leave the station after checking with her supervisor.

— Reporting by John Savage

Update: Bastrop County Voting ‘calm and peaceful’
Posted at 4:36 p.m.

Voting wait times have been no longer than two or three minutes at the Cedar Creek United Methodist Church polling location in Bastrop County. Megan O'Connell/Reporting Texas

Voting wait times have been no longer than two or three minutes at the Cedar Creek United Methodist Church polling location in Bastrop County. Megan O’Connell/Reporting Texas

Voting across Bastrop County has been “calm and peaceful so far,” said Chris Smith, 44, chairman of the Bastrop County Democratic Party.

Smith said he has received half a dozen updates from three Democratic Party poll watchers. “Our poll watchers haven’t seen any voter intimidation or reports of voters turned away because they lack photo ID,” Smith said.

— Reporting by John Savage

Update: Turnout Heavy at Precinct Near Texas State
Posted at 4:30 p.m.

About 400 people had cast ballots at Travis Elementary near Texas State University in San Marcos before 3 p.m. Election officials at the polling place said they had seen a steady stream of Hays County residents, particularly college-age voters, throughout the day.

“Most young people who come here are very interested in what’s going on, and I’m very pleased about that,” said Aart Millecam, the election judge for Precinct 332. Sixty voters filled out provisional ballots because their names didn’t appear on the rolls.

“I wish the state of Texas would have same-day registration,” Millecam said.

Voters will have six days to correct their information, and the ballots may or may not be counted, Millecam said.

Originally from the Nertherlands, Millecam said he became a U.S. citizen just to vote in 1971. He has been working elections for the past 30 years, he said, and turnout this year has been exceptionally high.

The election was a first for friends Victoria Hernandez and Alexia Salinas, both 19 and students at Texas State. They waited in line to vote together, and they also shared their choice of presidential candidate.

“I’m a woman and a woman of color, and Trump doesn’t support the person that I am,” said Hernandez, who is studying exercise and sports science. Salinas said she considered Clinton a feminist. “She stands up for our generation.”

They left the polling place together, but only Hernandez left with an “I voted” sticker as Salinas said she had not realized she was registered in a different precinct.

— Reporting by Anna Casey

Update: Candidate, election judge squabble over sign
Posted at 3:56 p.m.

Don Zimmerman, who is running for re-election from Austin City Council District 6, said local Randalls grocery stores have not been friendly to volunteers at the polls and that he wants to see a change in polling locations. Earlier Tuesday, Zimmerman and an election judge had squabbled outside the Randalls in Cedar Park over where the candidate could plant one of his signs.

“This has been going on for years, and I had to call the police on them two years ago — actually they called the police on me, and I got the police to tell them to shut up,” Zimmerman said. “We have a right to be here and work the polling place.”

Sandy Martin, the election judge for the Cedar Park Randalls polling location, said store owners have had to change the boundaries at which volunteers could hold political signs due to safety issues. Zimmerman said he has raised the issue with Travis County officials but has not yet reached out to election officials in Williamson County.

“I don’t know what their problem is, but we need to find a different place, a different store or something – someone who might be more cooperative,” Zimmerman said.

The station at the Cedar Park Randalls was the busiest in Williamson County during early voting. As of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 840 votes had been cast. Martin said a total of 14 machines have been deployed for election day and that lines have been short.

— Reporting by Hojun Choi


UPDATE: Brushy Creek Voters Share Thoughts
Posted at 3:09 p.m.

Lisa Mullin, 53, who recently moved from Florida, said she ran into no problems voting in Williamson County despite not having her state-approved photo ID.

“It was fabulous,” Mullin said. “I knew I had registered but didn’t have my voter registration card. I also don’t have my Texas ID card yet, so everything that could have gone wrong didn’t. I thought it’d be awful, and it wasn’t.”

Mullin, who works as a designer, said she voted for Trump. She said the candidate’s character was a big factor in her choice.

“I don’t really believe in either candidate,” Mullin said.

She lived in Arkansas during Bill Clinton’s governorship, and the Clinton family cannot be trusted in public office, Mullin said. She also favored Trump’s stance on repealing and replacing Obamacare, Mullin said.

Duan Le, 52, who did not tell Reporting Texas how he voted, said he believes the U.S. should keep a friendly attitude towards immigrants.

Le said his second experience voting in a presidential election seemed more consequential than the first.

“I just feel like some of the policies that some of the candidates have proposed are very dangerous to the nation, and so I feel like as a citizen I need to have a voice. Hopefully my voice can be heard.”

Le, an engineer who immigrated from Vietnam 30 years ago, said he does not believe in the mass deportation of undocumented immigrant, as Trump has said he would do if elected.

“We should continue to let other people come into this country because this land was built by immigrants, but we also need to be selective. Also the people who are here already and built their lives here…I don’t think we should deport them unless they have a criminal background or something like that,” he said.

As of 1:30 p.m., 658 voted had been cast at the Brushy Creek Community Center voting station.

— Reporting by Hojun Choi

UPDATE: Ballot confusion for UT senior
Posted at 1:51 p.m.

Kendall Whitehurst, 22, a senior economics major at UT Austin, said she was eager to vote but has run into obstacles involving provisional ballots.

Whitehurst waited in line during early voting but was turned away under unusual circumstances. A former Louisiana resident, she was initially told that she would have to fill out a provisional ballot because poll workers were unable to find her voter registration information. Before she submitted the ballot, however, a poll worker instructed her to tear it up, telling her, “Oh, you don’t want to do this. [The provisional ballot] is like a fake vote.”

Whitehurst was still unsure whether she will be able to vote.

— Reporting by Michael Thompson

UPDATE: ID rules sow confusion
Posted at 1:15 p.m.

Electionland reports that many of the calls to voting rights hotlines are from voters confused about the ID law. If voters do not have a photo ID, they must complete an affidavit swearing they are unable to obtain one and show another form of identification — utility bill, bank statement or the like. Then, they can cast a provisional ballot. If they do have a photo ID, they must show it.

Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, told Electionland that some of the confusion about IDs is attributable to the nature of the interim agreement.

“The law is that if you do possess one of the seven forms of photo ID – expired up to four years – it is true that you must present that form of ID,” she said. If voters do not have an ID, they can fill out a reasonable impediment form indicating they do not have one and present a form of identification such as a bank statement. She said that the Secretary of State’s office has “repeatedly” told local precincts that “they must communicate that there are options.”

Pierce says the Secretary of State’s office does not have any enforcement or investigative powers as an agency, and “all we can do is remind” local precincts of the law. “I stress that these are reminders – this is not the first time they are hearing these things,” she said.

Regardless, she encourages voters to call in complaints to her office, though she said immediate problems would be more swiftly dealt with at the local level. “We are a small agency. We rely on voters to be our eyes and ears on the ground,” she said.

— Reporting by Electionland

UPDATE: Shorter line, some confusion at Randalls in Round Rock
Posted at 12:42 p.m.

By 11 a.m., the line of voters at Randalls in Round Rock had significantly thinned. Waiting time quickened to about 10 to 20 minutes from more than an hour earlier this morning when voting began.

Rosie Mejia, an assistant manager at a retail store, said she waited in line for an hour before being turned about by poll workers. “My ID says Travis County, but I registered here in Williamson County because this is where I live now,” she said.

When she registered to vote, Mejia said, she was told that she could cast her ballot in Williamson County if she brought a document showing her name and current address to the polls.

“They still said no,” she said. But Mejia remains determined and plans to try her luck in Travis County. “I am going to vote,” she said. “If I have to drive all the way to Dallas, I am still going to vote.”

— Reporting by Qiling Wang and Swathi Narayanan

UPDATE: Line short at Brushy Creek
Posted at 11:22 a.m.

At the Brushy Creek Community Center in Round Rock the second-busiest polling station in Wlliamson County for early voting, 318 votes were cast as of 9:30 a.m.

Election judge Carol Ruppert said the station has 30 voting machines, the most it has had in any recent election. She said the wait time for voting has been consistently low.

Mike Robinson, who served on the Round Rock City Council from 1978 until 1984 and then as the mayor until 1993, said he voted for Republican Trump.

“On both sides, I think we have better choices that exist, but we went through the process, and they are the two that ended up,” Robinson said. “I am cautiously optimistic, but I’m also at peace with whoever wins.”

He said he is neither a Republican nor Democrat but that as a conservative, Trump “was the only choice.”

“I pray that God doesn’t abandon this country. I think we’re doing everything we can to get away from God, and I’m a Christian and I believe in Christian values, and I think if we had Christian values in this country, we’d be a whole lot better off,” Robinson said.

Various kind of campaign signs were put up next to the polling station at Randalls in Round Rock on election day. Filing Wang/Reporting Texas

Various kind of campaign signs were put up next to the polling station at Randalls in Round Rock on election day. Qiling Wang/Reporting Texas

Rachel Guzman, 37, a former middle school teacher who taught English and English as a second language, said she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“This was a very hard election season for me,” Guzman said. “It wasn’t easy for anybody. Each candidate was not ideal, and there are things that I disagree with. But when I have to vote my conscience, I have to decide who I think is going to help the most people.”

Guzman brought two of her four children to the polls with her. She said she wanted to teach them the value of voting with a clear conscience and making an informed decision.

“Though it has been riddled with scandal, for my little girls, this election is history,” she said.

— Reporting by Hojun Choi

UPDATE: Flawn opens late, line long

Posted at 11:07 a.m.

The polling station at the Flawn Academic Center at the University of Texas at Austin opened about a half hour late this morning as election workers scrambled to get polling machines set up on time.

Amanda Reed, 29, said she was in line at 7 a.m., when the polls were scheduled to open. By the time she voted, she had waited an hour and a half. As of 11 a.m., the line was wrapped almost completely around the building.

— Reporting by Michael Thompson

UPDATE: More than 50 line up for poll opening at Randalls in Round Rock
Posted 8:16 a.m.

At 6:50 a.m., the Randalls in Round Rock was buzzing with activity. More than 50 people were standing in line waiting to cast their vote at 7 a.m.

A poll worker told people in line that if they were from Travis County, they could not vote here and that all cell phones should be turned of while they were voting.

The first in line were a married couple — Gloria Orozco and Arturo Murillo. Orozco, 45, said they woke up at 5:30 a.m. and came to the polling station at 6 a.m. “It was nice to be first in line, to be done before work so I can relax the rest of the day,” said Orozco, a middle-school teacher.

Gloria Orozco (right) and her husband, Arturo Murillo (left) got up at 5:30am and became the first liners at the Randalls polling station in Round Rock on election day. Filing Wang/Reporting Texas

Gloria Orozco (right) and her husband, Arturo Murillo (left) got up at 5:30am and became the first liners at the Randalls polling station in Round Rock on Election Day. Qiling Wang/Reporting Texas

She said she procrastinated and did not vote during early voting. “It is more exciting to come on voting day,” she said.

Both Orozco and Murillo said that they voted for Hillary Clinton. Orozco said she would be worried if Clinton did not win. “This is the first election where I am very concerned about what is going to happen,” she said.

“I am concerned with the level of bigotry that Donald Trump has brought out in our society,” said Murillo, 46, who works at Sears.

Orozco and Murillo said that they are among the few in their family who voted for Clinton. Their family lives in the Panhandle, and almost everyone votes Republican. Orozco’s mother, however has shifted sides. “My mother is now a Democrat. My mother is changing the ways in the Panhandle,” she said.

“I think it is amazing that after the first African American president, hopefully we will have the first woman president,” Orozco said. “I think it is absolutely amazing. I hope it goes that way.”

— Reporting by Swathi Narayanan and Qiling Wang