Texas has seen a record number of early voters since early voting opened Oct. 13, according to a spokesperson for a grassroots nonprofit that advocates for voters rights and educates young people on the voting and political process.
“We’ve already had a record number of voters taking advantage of early voting this year,” Charlie Bonner, communications director at MOVE Texas, said of the state’s turnout. “Nearly 1 million Texans voted on the first day and we expect that that number will increase in the upcoming days.”
Early voting, which ends Oct. 30, can streamline the voting experience, especially during a pandemic, said Bonner and one local voter.
“Voting is about making your statement and early voting is one way to make sure your voice is heard in a safe and convenient way,” Bonner said in a Zoom interview Oct. 16. “It’s important to vote early because it gives people more options and flexibility.”
Chris Delgado, 43, says early voting is important because it alleviates some of the stress of having to wait at crowded polling stations on Election Day.
As Delgado waited to vote on Oct. 20 at the Helotes City Hall, he said he is willing to wait in line because he believes every vote counts.
“This election, voting is different because of the coronavirus so I made sure to come [vote] early,” Delgado said. “Early voting is important because every vote matters. I encourage everyone to get out there and exercise their right to vote.”
“It [early voting] is one of the ways to ensure that voters can get to the polls in time; so many people wait until the last minute to vote, and when people wait until the last-minute, things come up that can prevent them from voting. It also helps limit the amount of people at the polling stations at one time,” Bonner said.
While Bexar County does not have a tracker to check live wait times, people can join the Bexar County Voting Location Wait Times Facebook group to see what others are posting about wait times in different locations.
The Bexar County Elections Department also updates this webpage with the previous day’s turnout for each polling place.
Bexar County has seen a high early voter turnout, but not as high as early voting for the 2016 election. On the first day of early voting this year, 33,111 people turned out to vote, compared to the 35,341 people who turned out to vote on the first day in 2016, according to an article published at mysanantonio.com.
Bonner said other states are allowing people to vote by mail, but in Texas, mail-in ballots will be limited to those who meet eligibility requirements, which creates a greater in-person turnout at the polls. More people at the polls means longer wait times at certain polling places.
“I always encourage people who have flexible hours at work or school or just in general to avoid going to vote during the lunch period,” Bonner said. “It allows for other people who do not have flexible hours to go in during that time and it makes the stations less crowded.”
Bonner said Bexar County is also making voting accessible by having plenty of early polling centers, like the AT&T Center’s mega polling center.
“We [MOVE Texas] really advocated for the mega polling center at the AT&T Center,” Bonner said.” It makes it easy to spread out a lot of machines to have people spread out and not in one small area. The thing about the AT&T Center is that everyone knows where it is and it’s accessible; there is a bus route that runs right in front of the building making it accessible to people who do not have means of transportation.”
Bonner said people are reluctant to vote when they have never voted before but having a familiar place to vote helps to make people feel comfortable and safe.
“There is the familiarity factor, when people are familiar with something it makes them feel comfortable and less anxious,” Bonner said. “There are some invisible barriers for people when they are unfamiliar with something; some people might be afraid of what it’s like to vote if they have never voted before.”
Bonner encourages people to vote early to break barriers, such as lack of education about the voting process.