Using Polling Data to Guide Political Campaigns in Harris County, Texas

The Secretary of State of Texas is responsible for providing assistance and advice to election judges and early voting secretaries in Harris County Texas. Entities that own public buildings used as voting centers can enact reasonable regulations regarding time plac

Using Polling Data to Guide Political Campaigns in Harris County, Texas

The Secretary of State of Texas is the main election official of the state and is responsible for providing advice and assistance to election judges and early voting secretaries. According to Section 32.075 (e) of the Code, the presiding judge cannot enforce election provisions outside the 100-foot distance markers, and the same prohibition applies to an early voting employee under Section 81.002 of the Code. Entities that own or control public buildings used as voting centers cannot forbid election campaigns outside the 100-foot mark, but they may impose reasonable regulations regarding the time, place, and form of the election campaign. Examples of reasonable regulations may include prohibiting election campaigning on sidewalks or driveways to keep them clear of pedestrians and traffic.

It is important to note that only a court of law can decide what is reasonable in terms of time, place, and form. Additionally, voters are prohibited from wearing clothes or other items that advertise candidates, political parties, or measures on the ballot from a distance of 100 feet. The Harris County Elections Administrator's Office makes a great effort to post accurate information on their website, but they assume no responsibility for damages incurred directly or indirectly as a result of errors, omissions, or discrepancies. Harris County is one of many counties that allow voters to vote anywhere in the county.

Legislators are pushing numerous new election bills, including voting center limits, felony penalties for voting illegally, and a mechanism for the state to order new elections when voting problems arise in Texas counties with more than 2.7 million people. On the other side of Harris County, an emerging Democratic stronghold in reliable red Texas, road signs placed last November urged harassed drivers to vote for Republicans. Poll watchers are appointed by a candidate, party, or political action committee to support or oppose an election bill; however, they cannot be candidates, elected officials, employees, or family members of an election official who oversees the same polling place. At the same time, losing Republican candidates in the county filed more than a dozen electoral challenges who argued that significant problems at a limited number of polling stations on Election Day were enough to change the results of the contests.

These included a lack of ballots at some polling stations and all polls being ordered to remain open for an additional hour under an emergency court order. The Texas Supreme Court later suspended the vote following an appeal by the Republican attorney general. Voters whose voting centers ran out of paper were able to go elsewhere in the county; however, some gave up without voting. This fight on two fronts—in both courts and at the State Capitol—highlighted how essential it is for Republicans to keep Harris County in play and not allow it to become another heavily blue urban center on the Austin or Dallas line. We note that early voting clerks or presiding judges must determine that exit voting does not constitute “prowling” in violation of Section 61.003 (a) of the Code nor an alteration of order or contribution to a breach of peace at early voting centers or on Election Day in violation of Section 32.075 (a) of the Code as applies to early voting under Section 81.002 of the Code. In practice, pollsters need to balance the cost of polling a large sample with reducing sampling error; thus, a typical compromise for political pollsters is to use a sample size between 1,000 and 10,000 respondents.

In advance of elections, political experts and interested members of the public will consult opinion polls to see how results might come in.

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