BROWNSVILLE — Elections don’t just hold themselves.
That’s where Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza and his team at the Cameron County Elections and Voter Registration Department enter the picture.
Garza says there are two main components to his job: holding elections, for which his office is probably most well-known, and maintaining the voter registration list.
“We are responsible for maintaining the list of people who are eligible to vote, people who live in our community, who are United States citizens over the age of 18 and reside in Cameron County,” Garza explained. “So that’s our primary focus.”
This year, Garza proudly reported that for the first time, Cameron County cracked 200,000 registered voters.
“We processed approximately 500 voter registration applications (last) week from people through registration drives at our high schools or through people who were out in our community working tables in front of businesses or other entities encouraging people not only to register to vote, but to update their information.”
According to Garza, the only way officials can tell how many people may be eligible to vote in Cameron County is through Census data, which shows there are roughly 260,000 people who are over the age of 18 here.
However, some are non-citizens and others are folks who don’t stay around long.
Garza’s voter-registration target is 240,000, so he and his staff and a small army of volunteers backed by local organizations that seek to increase voter turnout are closing in on that target.
Still, solid registration numbers don’t equate to voter turnout.
“Forty-percent of those registered go to the polls,” Garza explained.
Cameron County, however, is not far behind the state average for voter turnout.
“We’re a little bit below what the state average is, but it’s getting better,” Garza said.
Part of the improvement might have to do with the current political climate and the election of President Donald Trump.
“During the 2016 election, we had over 90,000 people vote, which is the highest number of individuals who voted in any election in Cameron County,” Garza said.
That’s nearly half of registered voters for the time period.
“Presidential is a high turnout but the gubernatorial two years later is usually a little bit lower, but they’ve all been kind of increasing,” Garza said.
Garza said he hopes for a solid turnout during the March 6 primary and wants to remind voters that they can start registering to vote in the May election.
200,000 – registered voters
240,000 – target registration
90,000 – people voted in 2016