Cameron voter sign-up surges

Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza Wednesday goes through the files of voter registration cards the county has received and processed. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — For the first time in Cameron County’s voting history, the county has registered more than 200,000 voters, and election officials hope to raise that number to 220,000 before the 2020 election.

As of July 12, the number of registered voters in the county was 208,095. In January of this year that number was 200,258. To reach the 220,000 figure the county would have to register an additional 11,905 voters.

“ We are really excited about the increases of people signing up to vote,” said Remi Garza, administrator of the Cameron County Department of Elections and Voter Registration.

Garza attributes the increase to people finally becoming aware of the importance of voting. “While registering isn’t necessarily voting, it is giving them the chance to vote if they decide to on Election Day.”

He said the increase could also probably be due to the upcoming presidential election.

“ New people coming into the communities are becoming aware of what is happening locally and the impact that could have nationally is also driving that up,” Garza said.

In 2017 the county started the Grow the Vote program, which was designed to get to the numbers up by the 2020 election.

“ In 2015, we started the year with 180,004 registered voters. We initiated the Grow the Vote program in 2017 and have added 28,091 new voters to the rolls. Our goal is to have 220,000 registered voters before the 2020 Presidential Election,” Garza said.

In January 2015 there were 180,004 registered voters, in January 2016, 185,116 registered voters, in January 2017, 193,264 registered voters, in January 2018, 200,258 and in July 2019, 208,095 registered voters.

The Elections Department is working with organizations such as the League of Women Voters, Su Clinica Familiar, the Brownsville Community Health Center, Proyecto Juan Diego, Texas Southmost College, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, local libraries, the Offices of County Clerk, Tax Assessor and the District Clerk to make applications available to individuals wanting to register to vote.

“ Our outreach teams will do everything they can so that someone who would like to register doesn’t have to look very hard to find them,” Garza said.

The elections department will also be working with the Census Complete Count Committee to spread the word not only about voter registration but the importance of participating in the Census count, Garza said. The department also wants to partner with each of the cities in the county to focus in and target voting rating percentages for each community.

“ We did some statistics that kind of indicate that some of our cities are at like 96 or 97 of the potential registered voters are registered voters and that others are 79 or 82 percent. So, we want to have meetings with those (cities) and target them so that we can work together to increase that civic awareness,” Garza said.

Garza added the elections department would not have been able to reach the high numbers without the assistance of community organizations. “We know we didn’t do this on our own. This comes from a community of people working to get people registered.”