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Photo by Jo Clifton. A line of voters snakes through a field at the South Austin Recreation Center.

Travis County sees heavy turnout on early voting

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Travis County voters have set an early voting record. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir released figures late Tuesday showing that 35,873 voters cast ballots in person on Tuesday. In addition, the county received 22,577 mail ballots and 17 limited ballots. That’s a little less than 7 percent of the county’s total registered voters.

That record follows efforts by Travis County Tax Assessor Collector-Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant and his volunteers to register as many eligible voters as possible before the Oct. 5 deadline. He recently reported that 97 percent of the county’s 850,000 eligible citizens are registered to vote.

On the first day of early voting four years ago, 33,664 Travis County voters cast ballots in person.

As reported on various news sites and much of social media, eager voters got up before dawn to stand in line at many of Travis County’s 31 polling locations. Statesman columnist Ken Herman reported via Twitter, “Long line shortly after sunup at early voting location at Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North Austin.”

Bryce Dubee reported on the scene in Manor, writing on Twitter, “Holy cow – I’ve been voting at the same polling place in Manor for years now and I’ve NEVER seen anything like this! A massive line of people wrapping all the way around the building – that door is not the entrance; it keeps going around two more corners!

Travis County was not alone. Williamson County also broke its first day of early voting record, with close to 22,000 votes cast.

More than 128,000 Harris County voters cast ballots Tuesday, compared to the previous record of 68,000 voting on the first day of early voting in 2016.

In Dallas County, more than 58,000 early votes were reportedly cast Tuesday, with nearby Tarrant County receiving 33,000 mail-in ballots and more than 42,000 in-person votes.

The Quorum Report and The Texas Tribune both reported heavy turnout across Texas’ largest counties.

Clearly, there was high demand for ballots. At the Austin Central Library, which served as a voting mega-center, 1,434 Travis County voters cast ballots. Other locations that saw more than 1,000 voters included the Austin Oaks Church (1,298), the Ben Hur Shrine Center (1,365), the Carver Branch Library (1,056), the Courtyard by Marriott Austin Pflugerville (1,027), the Dittmar Recreation Center (1,109), the George Morales Dove Springs Rec Center (1,009), Holiday Inn Austin Midtown (1,161), the Millennium Youth Complex (1,159), the Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center (1,002), the Pflugerville ISD Rock Gym (1,414), the Shops at Arbor Walk (1,047) and the two locations at Southpark Meadows, with 1,115 and 944 voters each.

More ballots might have been cast at the South Austin Recreation Center – which ended the day with 894 votes cast – but for a problem that caused a reported two-hour delay in the morning. At noon, voters were spread six feet apart around the soccer field, standing in the hot sun, waiting for their chance to vote. There were a few umbrellas and at least one chair, but most people were unshaded. Some walked away after spending half an hour in the line. At that time, voters at the front of the line reported that they had been standing there for two hours. There was still a line, though a much shorter one, at 7 p.m., when Travis County officials declared that anyone standing in line would be allowed to vote. Everyone else would have to come back at a later date.

Early voting ends Friday, Oct. 30. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon-6 p.m. on Sunday.

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