Many voters in Texas' Democratic primary on Super Tuesday had to endure long lines to cast their ballots.
For Hervis Rogers, the last man to vote at the polling station located at Texas Southern University – one of the nation’s largest historically black universities – the wait ended up being nearly seven hours. By the time he was finally able to cast his vote at the Houston location, news outlets had already called the state for former Vice President Joe Biden.
But Rogers was smiling and in good spirits after he finally voted.
"I wanted to get my vote in to voice my opinion," Rogers told KTRK. "I wasn't going to let anything stop me, so I waited it out."
Rogers told KRIV that he considered leaving because of the long line and that it felt like "it was set up for me to walk away."
"But I said, 'I’m not going to do that.'"
Rogers said that he would do it all over again because, "Every vote counts."
"It's over with. It feels good," Rogers told Houston Chronicle reporter Nicole Hensley after he voted. Rogers, who had been undecided when he arrived at the polling location, spent much of his time in line watching Super Tuesday results on his phone. He declined to share who he ended up supporting.
"I made up my mind who I went with. I think it was the right choice," he said. And as he left the building at about 1:30 a.m. CST, he said he was on his way to work, where he was already supposed to be.
Many on social media applauded Rogers' dedication. But many also called it an example of voter suppression.
"A seven-hour wait to vote is a poll tax," tweeted 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. "We need to restore the Voting Rights Act and stop Republican elected officials from shutting down polling sites."
"This is unacceptable – and a result of continued GOP attacks on the voting rights of American citizens," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
This is unacceptable—and a result of continued GOP attacks on the voting rights of American citizens— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 4, 2020
The House has passed H.R. 4 which would restore critical protections to end #VoterSuppression
It’s time for the Senate to do the same. #RestoreTheVotehttps://t.co/yBX2N9FFIw
"Texas closed hundreds of polling places and we didn’t have the Voting Rights Act to stop it," read a post from the NAACP official Twitter account. "No one should have to wait this long to participate in democracy! Thank you Hervis Rogers for your commitment to being counted!"
"Countless stories of grueling lines up to 7 HOURS, overwhelmingly in communities of working class, students, people of color. How many votes were suppressed? How did it change the outcome? Infuriating," said Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential nominee.
The polls in Texas closed at 7 p.m. CST, but voters like Rogers, who were already in line at that time, were able to wait until their votes were cast.
Roxanne Werner, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Clerk's office, told USA TODAY that the delays were due to the high level of voter participation.
"We had just a really unusually high and enthusiastic turnout at some of our polling locations," she said. She added that voters "can take as much time as they want."
"The ballot in Harris County is pretty long," she said. And more voters turned up to vote on the day of the election than they did for early voting, "which is a reversal of what usually happens in Harris County."
Werner said another reason for the long wait times was that the Republican and Democratic parties were each allocated an equal number of voting machines, and only members of the respective parties could cast ballots on the respective machines.
A total of 321,903 voters participated in the Democratic primary, and 192,855 took part in the Republican primary, she said.
The county had asked both parties to agree to a joint primary, which would have permitted all voters to use all of the available machines, but one party declined, Werner said. She did not specify which party rejected the joint primary proposal.
Werner said the number of polling locations was "on par with previous primary elections."
In Travis County, where Austin is located, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said fears of contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus disrupted staffing at some voting locations at the beginning of the day.
Eleven people, including judges who were responsible for opening some of the 175 polling locations across the county Tuesday, did not show up for work, she said.
"The election judges said the news was scaring them," DeBeauvoir said. "The media is hyping this corona thing."
Werner said that was not an issue in Harris County, however.
Contributing: Claire Osborn, Heather Osbourne and Lara Korte, Austin-American Statesman