BROWNSVILLE — Voter participation is at an all-time high, according to the Cameron County Department of Elections and Voter Registration.
Lines have been tremendous even up to the final hour the polls were open for early voting, and residents were turned away if they arrived even a minute after 7 p.m.
Of the approximately 195,000 registered voters in Cameron County, 61,339 have already cast their vote ahead of Election Day, Tuesday. That is 31 percent of the base.
“Historically, just under half of our voters vote in the early voting period, so we could be looking at close to 100,000 voters or more participating,” Elections Administrator Remi Garza said.
If that happens, Cameron County will have a 55 to 60 percent voter turnout, the highest it has ever been.
Anthony Knopp, history professor emeritus of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was “stunned” by the results.
“It’s unprecedented here, where we usually have a low voter turnout,” Knopp said.
Additional people were brought on to handle the unprecedented surge in voters, more ballots were ordered, and signs were placed outside polling locations to ensure voters are in the correct precinct.
“We (wanted) everything to be ready, so voters have as smooth a process as possible,” Garza said.
Knopp reasons that there could be a few different possibilities for the record-breaking turnout.
The first is that rather than the presidential race dealing in issues, it deals in scandals, which seems to attract people’s attention.
“A portion of the populace has difficulty in relating to the issues that get discussed unless they are discussed in a great deal of clarity and consistence, which there certainly hasn’t been in this campaign,” Knopp said. “And unfortunately, sometimes the attacks are what draws people’s attention, not unlike what we see in local evening news with corruption scandals, shootings, or accidents.”
The second possibility is that the local races are drawing voters to the polls.
“There are a lot of local races particularly the Brownsville Independent School District school board, which draws people in that are somehow connected to the candidate or the local issues,” Knopp said. “I don’t want to make too much out of that because we always have local races going on, but it is a possibility.”
The final possibility is that because there is a perception that everyone is going out to vote, it is encouraging others to do the same, Knopp said.
The anticipated participation will cause delays. The actual polls may not close until 10 p.m. or later, Garza said.
Garza encourages people to cast their vote earlier in the day on Election Day to avoid the longer lines at night.
Residents must bring a valid photo ID to vote. If someone has a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining one, they can still vote but must fill out a statement explaining why they are unable to obtain a photo ID.