Evaluating Harris County's New Countywide Voting System (Spring 2020)
Harris County began operating Election Day Vote Centers (EDVCs) during the May 2019 Joint election. EDVCs allow voters to cast ballots at any location rather than only their voting precinct and have been used widely in other states with significant benefits to both voters and election administrators, including shorter lines and wait times to vote, more locations where voters can cast their ballots, increased opportunities for voting among underrepresented populations, increased efficiency and reduced overall cost of voting for county governments. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation is necessary in order to determine the effectiveness of EDVCs in the Houston area, and is required by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office in order for Harris County to be able to continue operating their EDVC program. The Harris County Clerk’s Office has asked for a Houston Action Research Team to conduct this evaluation for the May 2019 and November 2019 elections.
Understanding Local Transportation Spending (Spring 2020)
Transportation is a major public issue in the Houston area be it due to safety, connectivity, congestion, pot holes, or accessibility, as well as insufficient sidewalks, mass transit, and micromobility options. Because of its large scope, there are many stakeholders at multiple levels in both the public and private sectors concerned about transportation. Meanwhile, there are a diverse array of transportation projects happening simultaneously with lots of money being spent and questionable accountability regarding public interests. This research supports LINK Houston, a nonprofit that advocates for a robust and equitable transportation network so that all people can reach opportunity, in working to ensure budget transparency to help Houston area residents understand how local government uses transportation-related funding in comparison with the needs of communities and community-expressed priorities.
Alternatives to Incarceration (Spring 2020)
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) advances solutions and builds coalitions to reduce mass incarceration and foster safer Texas communities. This project will support the TCJC by researching alternatives to incarceration and exploring how funds currently used to support the costs of incarceration could be used more effectively through community support programs. Services such as drug treatment and affordable housing may be more valuable at rehabilitating offenders, and sentencing that involves community service or restorative justice may provide better outcomes for both the offender and those impacted by the crime. This HART project would look deeply at the costs and outcomes of incarceration and compare them to existing and theoretical alternatives.