Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman has been in office less than three months but is quickly making her mark on the voting process in Texas’ largest county. After defeating her opponent, a controversial Republican incumbent, by 140,000 votes and 12 percentage points last fall, Trautman has wasted no time delivering on her campaign promise to make voting simpler and more convenient for Harris County residents.
Just a week after taking office in January, the Houston Chronicle reported that Trautman had broken with her predecessor and expanded early voting hours in a special election to fill a vacant seat in the Texas House of Representatives.
“One of my goals upon taking office is making voting easier for Houstonians and expanding Early Voting hours is just one way to do that,” Trautman said.
Trautman has also won high marks early on for her timely reporting of election results, something her predecessor, Stan Stanart, consistently failed to do. Stanart’s chronic inability to report results gave rise to a social media meme — #FireStanart. Where Harris County election watchers would routinely have to wait until the early morning hours to see final results, Diane Trautman is setting a new standard. Final results in a March 2019 special election runoff were posted by 9:15 p.m.
Trautman’s most important early victory as County Clerk, however, was winning approval from the Texas Secretary of State to implement voting centers, which would allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling location on Election Day. Previously, voters were allowed on Election Day to vote only at their home precinct. Harris County, home to Houston, is the nation’s third largest county with more than 4.6 million residents, over 2.3 million registered voters and spanning 1,777 square miles.
Trautman’s plan will create Election Day voting centers, placed at well-known, convenient locations across the county, in addition to traditional neighborhood polling places. Harris County’s adoption of this Countywide Polling Place program will create the largest such program in the nation.
Trautman has been clear in her desire to replace Harris County’s aging voting machines.
“I truly believe that the most secure way to run our elections is with an electronic machine that produces a paper ballot,” she said.
While there is a lengthy process and the need for Harris County Commissioner’s Court to approve funding for the machines, Trautman has said she hopes to have them by the November 2020 presidential election.
Trautman has ushered in a new day at the Harris County Clerk’s Office, where she is determined to make the voting and election systems work for, rather than against, Harris County residents.