Whereas many voters might have made their decisions well before the election, Moe Raval decided not to rush to judgment.
The 31-year-old Garden Oaks resident said he watched one of the presidential debates in its entirety and part of the other one. He also had discussions with friends about the merits of voting for President Donald Trump or for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger.
So in a county where more than 1.4 million people cast ballots during the three weeks of early voting – surpassing Harris County’s entire turnout from the 2016 general election – Raval waited until the final day. And he’s glad he did, because there were only a few fellow voters at Waltrip High School when he arrived at the local polling place Tuesday afternoon.
“Sometimes I have to wait in line,” Raval said. “But right now, it’s just in and out.”
Whether their preferred candidates won or not, area residents were rewarded for waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots. There were sparse crowds at many of the 30-plus voting locations in the Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and Heights areas, with only 151 people voting at Waltrip as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to an election volunteer who was keeping voter counts at polling places in the vicinity.
Less than 3 miles away at Lazybrook Baptist Church, an election worker there said about 200 people had voted as of about 3 p.m.
“It is pretty slow,” said Booker Morris, the election volunteer who was keeping voter counts at area polling places. “But a lot of people voted early. And a lot of people sent in mail ballots that have to be counted.”
Morris said the relatively low turnout Tuesday was a byproduct of Harris County’s expansion of voter access, which he considers better than the alternative. There were a total of 806 polling locations across the county Tuesday, when more than 200,000 ballots were cast, according to the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
Shady Acres couple Chris and Paige Taylor voted at Lazybrook, saying they waited until Election Day because they had gotten married and Paige had to change the address on her voter registration.
“It was really easy,” Paige said of voting. “It felt very safe.”
Abraham Garcia and Leanna Pineda, who voted at Waltrip, said they waited until Election Day because it was more conducive to their schedules. Candlelight Plaza resident Stacey Hudson, who also voted at Waltrip, cited procrastination as her reason for not casting a ballot during early voting.
Oak Forest resident Michael Lauck, who voted at Candlelight Park, said peer pressure drove him to the polls.
“People kept annoying me, all my friends,” he said. “I didn’t want to lie to them when they asked me, because I knew they were all going to ask me. So I said, ‘I’ll just go ahead and vote then.’ ”
Leading up to Election Day, there were reports about businesses in Washington D.C. and other major U.S. cities boarding up their windows in anticipation of potential unrest about the results. But that did not seem to be a concern at area polling places, with Morris saying, “Everything seems to be pretty smooth and peaceful. People are voting and not feeling anxious.”
Hudson said Houstonians proved to be “neighborly” during the national wave of social injustice protests over the summer, with the city largely avoiding the violence that marred protests in other locales, so she said she was not concerned there would be any issues on Election Day.
Having made his picks after careful deliberation, on the last day he could, Raval said he was looking forward to moving past election season.
“Everybody is waiting for this to be over with, so you can stop getting harassed by these texts and calls about Biden and Trump,” he said. “Results tonight, we’ll see what chaos if anything ensues (Wednesday), and then be home free by Thursday. You’ve just got to see.”
With some states continuing to count votes, it could be the end of the week or longer until the presidential race is settled.