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Preps underway for May 24 runoff election

Harris County is coming off a rocky March primary, but local leaders are hopeful the May runoff will run smoother.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — We're approaching the May 24 runoff election and early voting starts next week.

Voters will be deciding which party candidates will advance to the November election.

Key dates:

  • Early voting begins: May 16
  • Early voting ends: May 20
  • Election day: May 24

RELATED: Texas Primary runoff: Key dates, deadlines for May 24 election in state, congressional races

After several issues caused delays in vote counting during the March primary, KHOU 11 News wanted to find out how preparations are going for this election.

"We are getting those voting machines out, preparing them, checking them, programming them," Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said.

Both parties agree that the March primary had some problems.

"There was nothing that went right on March 1," Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel said.

"What you saw March 1 was new machines, new laws, new office and just trying to figure it all out," Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu said.

Just like the primary, the May runoff is spearheaded by both the Democratic and Republican parties.

"There's a lot more things that we have to agree on (in May) and part of this is the polling locations," Evbagharu said.

When you have an election run by opposing parties, conflict can happen.

"Polling place placement is critical. If you put it too far away from voters, they're less likely to turn out. So Republicans and Democrats may have disputes about where to put these polling places because they both want them to be closer to their voters," University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus said.

The parties settled on 260 polling locations for the runoff but it wasn't without weeks of disagreement.

"The parties had a bit of a fight. They fought over wanting even more locations ... what locations. And so it took them about a month to sort it all out," Longoria said.

The fallout from the March primary led Longoria to submit her resignation.

RELATED: Harris County Election Commission unanimously votes to accept Isabel Longoria’s resignation

"Regardless of what my perceptions might be about elections and how smoothly they run, at the end of the day, I'm held accountable by Commissioners Court, and sometimes a head's got to roll, and this time it was mine," Longoria said.

Criticism of lengthy vote-counting, staffing challenges and equipment issues plagued the primary. Longoria, who isn't off the job until July, said she doesn't expect any issues to carry over to the May runoff, which will have a shorter ballot and fewer voters.

"Take it with a grain of salt ... what you've heard about March ... and know that going into May, we've updated everything we can. We improved every process we can, but ultimately voting is safe, secure and successful in Harris County and we intend to keep it that way," Longoria said.

Democrats said they are confident the election will be smooth.

"We all have to slow down and just make sure we're getting it right," Evbagharu said.

Republicans have their doubts.

"If our judges and clerks do not get adequate support from the county, our party is ready and willing to step up and help our judges and clerks," Siegel said.

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