County Clerk touts curbside voting, asks for more early voting

From the inbox:

Chris Hollins

On Friday, July 10, the last day of Early Voting during the July Primary Runoff Elections, the Harris County Clerk’s Office piloted Drive-Thru Voting as an additional option for voters to cast their ballot safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first time in Texas history that an elections office held Drive-Thru Voting, where many voters at a time could cast their ballot without leaving the comfort and safety of their car.

“My number one priority is to keep voters and poll workers safe,” said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins. “The feedback we received from the Drive-Thru Voting pilot proves that voters felt safe exercising their right to vote and that it was an easy and efficient alternative to going inside a voting center. We are exploring options to expand this program for the November General Election at select locations as another method of voting during COVID-19.”

Voters raved about the experience. Of the 200 voters who voted at the Drive-Thru Voting site, 141 completed an optional survey reviewing the new service. Some wrote that Drive-Thru Voting was “easy to use” and others cited how the service “made voters feel safe.” One respondent even wrote that it was their “best voting experience EVER!”

Voters would overwhelmingly use the service again and recommend it to others. When asked on a scale of 0 through 10, with 10 being extremely likely, whether they would consider using the same service if it is provided again in the future, voters on average gave a score of 9.70. On the same scale, when asked whether they would recommend Drive-Thru Voting to another voter, voters on average gave a score of 9.66.

Fear of exposure to COVID-19 was the top reason for using Drive-Thru Voting. When asked why voters chose to vote using the Drive-Thru Voting service as opposed to the traditional walk-in voting method, 82 (58%) cited worries about health and safety in the midst of the pandemic. Other frequently mentioned reasons included the convenience of the service and pure curiosity about the experience of Drive-Thru Voting.

Drive-Thru Voting was piloted from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM on Friday, July 10th, 2020, at Houston Community College – West Loop.

There’s a video at the link if you want to see it for yourself. Curbside has been done in some other locations, and it was specifically discussed as an option, in a much larger and more ambitious context, in this Chron story from April, by poli sci professor Bob Stein. There are limiting factors to doing this – the equipment is difficult to move, it’s labor intensive, and those combine to make the process slow things down for other voters, at least when this is done on an ad hoc basis. Done like this, where there’s a set number of designated locations for curbside might be more feasible, depending on how many people want to use it. I don’t want to come off like Debbie Downer here, this is a great example of outside-the-box thinking, it’s just that there are challenges that would need to be addressed to do this at anything approaching scale.

One thing that everyone would agree worked well for the July runoffs was expanded early voting. Hollins also sent a letter to Greg Abbott to remind him that he promised us more early voting in November as well.

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to extend the early voting period for the November general election to ensure residents can cast ballots safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the governor Wednesday, Hollins asked for at least one additional week of balloting, and urged Abbott to set a schedule by the end of July. Early voting is scheduled to begin Oct. 19; Election Day is Nov. 3.

“It is crucial that elections officials and voters know the amount of time early voting will take place so that the many required complicated elections plans may be undertaken,” Hollins wrote. “Without that information, full planning and preparation for this important election cannot be undertaken.”

A spokesman for Abbott did not respond to a request for comment. Hollins noted that Abbott added extra days of early voting during the July primary runoffs, which were rescheduled from May because of the pandemic.

See here for your reminder about Abbott’s promise, and here for a copy of Hollins’ letter, which footnotes the Texas Tribune story that reported on Abbott’s extended early voting promise. I’d like to see early voting extended by two weeks, starting on October 5, but I’ll settle for one is that’s all Abbott is willing to give. It’s the best way – well, the second best way, after expanded voting by mail, which we’re not going to get – to keep the voters safe. Hollins is right, the sooner Abbott makes good on his promise, the better.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Election 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to County Clerk touts curbside voting, asks for more early voting

  1. brad says:

    This is an inefficient gimmick and should not go forward on a general basis. Otherwise we should just partner with Sonic and offer a burger with every vote.

    Curbside voting is great, but ONLY should be for COVID positive voters who are a danger to other voters or poll workers.

    Although I really enjoy voting in person, Texas should go to all mail-in voting to improve the #s of voting in our state.

  2. Pat Bryan says:

    It may be great from the voter’s viewpoint. But from the Clerk’s side it is very labor intensive. With the current old voting machines, it takes about 5 times the labor per curbside vote. Maybe the new machines will improve that.

  3. Pingback: Abbott officially extends early voting for November – Off the Kuff

  4. Wolfgang says:


    It usually makes a lot of sense to beta-test an innovation on a small scale, not just for functionality in a technical/procedural sense, but in this case also customer (voter) acceptance and user experience/satisfaction. The sunk costs of a pilot is relatively low and so are the risks; process can be fine-tuned as needed; assessment can be made regarding costs/time relative to normal in-building voting under pandemic conditions. Kinks can be ironed out. — If it also makes for good PR, based on rave reviews, that’s just icing on the cake.

    It’s good to see creative thinking transformed into action.


    Also, as far as (more) public input in the switch to an election administrator, that’s coming now too. I listened in on some of the public comments at the original commissioner’s hearing (all-in-all that was 10 plus hours, though I must say I wasn’t up to the whole measure of it), and the call-ins were — shall we say — quite passionate. Some of them.

    I thought that the most valid criticism (contra adoption) was that this item was scheduled for take-up on an election day. That made for bad optics in that affected poll workers were precluded from airing their views because they were on duty.

    Here today’s announcement:


    Notice is hereby given that a SPECIAL MEETING OF THE HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS,

    The meeting will be held virtually, to advance the public health goal of limiting face-to-face meetings to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
    The public will only be able to attend the meeting virtually, as a result of Governor Greg Abbott’s June 26, 2020, Executive Order GA-28, which directs that all persons not otherwise excepted by the order should not be in groups larger than ten and should maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their
    group. The public may access the meeting through the following link:


    Alternatively, the public will have the option of submitting written statements regarding the implementation of the Harris County Office of Elections Administrator by emailing: [email protected]. Written statements will be accepted until Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 5 p.m.

Comments are closed.