The numbers in Harris County have been astonishing. A record 128,000 people voted on the first day of early voting, up from 68,000 in 2016 and a higher turnout than the entire state of Georgia on the same day. Turnout has barely dropped since then. On Friday, Harris County surpassed 1 million early votes, exceeding its total from 2016 with a week of early voting still left, and nearly equaling the 1.3 million people who voted overall in 2016.
Hollins, the first Black clerk in Harris County history and the youngest at 34, credits a backlash against voter suppression for the unexpectedly high turnout. “Efforts to suppress votes in Texas and across the South have very often been done in secret, in smoke-filled rooms, in ways the public can’t fully digest,” he says. “But a voter—a senior or a person with a disability—can feel when the governor says they have to drive 100 miles round-trip to drop off their mail ballot in person. When it’s thrown in your face like it has been this election season, voters are responding by saying, ‘I’ll show you,’ and coming out in record numbers to have their voices heard.”