Texans jumping early voting opportunities

Sahar Chmais 

In the height of election season, it is important for constituents to understand their voting environment. In the 2020 race, there is a very noticeable pattern seen across the state – nearly 17 million Texans are excited to vote, an unusually high number. 

“What we are seeing is people are energized to vote in incredible numbers across the state,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, “and people are making plans given COVID-19.”

Why the sudden interest? For a long time, the number of American voters has been dwindling, but suddenly voting is making a comeback. 

Segura said he believes people’s interest has been peaked because they realize the meaning of their vote on the local level, such as who becomes the District Attorney or Governor. He also believes that many people are seeing the administration in Washington DC at odds with fairness, justice and equality, and they would like to see some change. 

Although state residents have become more excited about voting this term, the pandemic has put a stick in the wheels for many. State officials have not tried to ease the process, instead, they have thrown many roadblocks in the voter’s way. 

The Texas Supreme Court has denied voting by mail unless a person is: 65 years or older, sick or disabled, out of the county on voting day, or in jail but is eligible to vote. 

Another hurdle in the voter’s way this election period was that Texas did not allow online voter registration. And if a person becomes ill during the pandemic and they passed the deadline to register to vote by mail, they have to get a doctor’s note and deliver it in person to their county court, Segura said. 

“Most people will not do that,” Segura explained the harm in this process. “If they have COVID-19 or become sick, it makes them more at risk. We are challenging that in court. “ 

The challenges do not stop there. One method some state representatives attempted was blocking drive-thru voting, but the court of appeals did not accept the case. 

While stopping drive-thru voting was unsuccessful, the state has managed to take away straight-ticket voting, a way that allows a person to vote through their preferred party line. The issue in taking away straight-ticket voting is that there can be dozens of races on the ballot which would take people much longer to get through the process, explained Segura. 

Regardless of all of these roadblocks, voters across the state have set voting records, with Travis County hitting a 97% mark of registered voters and Hays County reaching 86%. 

As of Oct. 18, there have been 44,869 votes submitted through mail-in ballots and in-person votes. 

“Texas is becoming a voting state, it’s exciting,” Segura told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “[Voters] shattered it; it’s still not where we want it to be but we will see greater voter turnout this election.”

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