Austin-area residents report inaccurate early voting wait times given on Travis County website

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first day of early voting brought lengthy wait times for thousands of voters in Central Texas.

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Screenshot from a KXAN viewer of an inaccurate polling site wait time on the Travis County Clerk’s website (KXAN)

Starting early Tuesday, KXAN viewers began emailing their stories of standing in lines for more than two hours at some polling sites.

Several Central Texas counties, including Travis and Williamson County, have a handy online tool voters can turn to and check wait times before heading out to vote.

But on Monday, several people said some of the times on the Travis County website were way off.

KXAN viewer Jennifer Librach Nall sent two photos from the Ben Hur Shrine Center voting site on Rockwood Lane in central Austin. The first photo was a screenshot of her phone showing a zero to 10-minute wait at 9:40 a.m. The second photo showed a line of people that wrapped around the side of the building.

“The website says <10 minute wait, but there is a >2 hour line to vote!” she wrote.

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Line at the Ben Hur Shrine Center on the first day of early voting (Courtesy: Jennifer Librach Nall)

Nall didn’t have that much time to spare, so she left.

KXAN Investigator Erin Cargile went back to the Ben Hur Shrine Center around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to see if the website wait time was more accurate. The wait time on the website showed 21 to 50 minutes.

She ran into voter Ruhi Bell, who was walking to her car after casting her ballot.

“I timed it from the time I got out of my car to just now, it was 20 minutes—so it was a lot quicker!” said Bell.

KXAN’s next stop was the voting site at the Shops at Arbor Walk near Mopac and Braker Lane, which was marked with a green pin on the website map. That means the wait time should be less than 20 minutes, but the line coming out of the doors and wrapping around the side of the building told a different story.

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Zoie and Sean Hill standing in the early voting line at the Shops at Arbor Walk (KXAN photo/Erin Cargile)

Lisa and her husband, who still had at least 20 people in front of them, said they had been standing in line about 30 to 35 minutes. Sean and Zoie Hill, a father-daughter duo, were standing right behind them and also tracking the time. It was Zoie’s first time to vote.

“We’ve been waiting here 32 minutes and 57 seconds,” said Sean. “The website said it was gonna be 0 to 20, but the line is moving fast, so we’re happy, just happy to get a chance to vote.”

We relayed our findings to Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir in a Zoom call from the parking lot.

“I’ll call over to Arbor Walk and remind them again—you have to tell voters what’s going on,” said DeBeauvoir.

DeBeauvoir said it’s up to poll workers at the front check-in desk to update wait times on the website.

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Jennifer Librach Nall after voting on day two of early voting (Courtesy: Jennifer Librach Nall)

“We really press them to try to keep that number as updated and correct as possible,” said DeBeauvoir. “And I think they try; sometimes they get busy.”

She said her office also corrected a problem with the online map. Tuesday, the category showing lines longer than an hour was missing, and those polling sites were getting lumped in with the category showing shorter wait times. DeBeauvoir apologized and said the issue has been fixed.

We checked back in with Nall Wednesday afternoon, who first alerted us to the website issues Monday. She said she had just returned from the Austin Rec Center voting site and waited 52 minutes to vote. She said the website wait time showed 0 to 20 minutes.

The KXAN investigative team will continue to look into voting issues from now through Election Day. If you run into problems, email us at reportit@kxan.com.

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