Voting Underway: Voters cast ballots in primary runoff elections

A man walks into the polling location to vote Monday at the Cameron County Courthouse Judicial Complex Main Office. Early voting for the Democratic and Republican July 14 Primary Runoff Elections began Monday.(Denise Cathey/ The Brownsville Herald)

Early voting for the July 14 primary runoff elections began Monday morning across Cameron County. Various poll locations in Brownsville were open, fully staffed, and ready to serve local voters several hours into the first day.

Elections staff at each polling site confirmed they had seen voters already, but that traffic was fairly slow. Working residents are able to participate in early voting from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. through Thursday, July 2. The early voting locations will be closed July 3 and 4 for the Fourth of July holiday. Early voting will resume on July 6 and continue through July 10.

County officials are hoping for a good turnout despite the pandemic. In Cameron County, more than 212,000 registered voters are eligible to cast ballots in the election.

Three seats are up for grabs on the Democratic Party ticket, including a runoff for county sheriff between incumbent Omar Lucio and former district clerk Eric Garza, a runoff for 138th state District Court judge between Gabriela “Gabby” Garcia and Helen Delgadillo, and a runoff for state senator District 27 between incumbent Eddie Lucio Jr. and Sara Stapleton Barrera.

On the Republican ticket there is a runoff between incumbent Pedro Delgadillo and Norman Esquivel Jr. for Cameron County Constable Precinct 1.

While the Democratic Party is holding a county-wide election, the Republican Party runoff is specific to the Laguna Madre area, which includes Port Isabel, South Padre Island, and Laguna Vista.

At the Southmost Library, around 10 employees worked behind desks just past 10:30 a.m. on Monday. Staff was outfitted with gloves and masks, and an employee opened the door for voters. At each polling location, a space was set aside with a phone number to dial for curbside voting.

Residents who aren’t eligible to vote by mail under current Texas election code but are afraid of entering the polling stations are encouraged to use the service, though Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza cautioned that the process will take slightly longer.

At the polling location next to the Cameron County Courthouse, staff worked outside installing signage on the windows. Just before noon, there was foot traffic in and out of the Brownsville Public Library, indicating voting had picked up pace.

Garza assured the public that officials have worked to make the voting process as safe as possible. “We believe that if we focus on protecting the voter we will protect the vote,” the administrator wrote on Monday.

“ We will require all poll workers to wear face coverings — either face mask, face shields or both. We will have hand sanitizer at both entrance and exits of each polling room. We will be constantly cleaning the voting booths as soon as voters complete marking their ballots. We will have protective shields at critical interaction points in the process to limit exposure for both the poll worker and the voter. We are adjusting our check-in procedure to facilitate health and safety while still maintaining the necessary procedures to secure the vote.”

Social distancing is enforced at polling locations and voters are strongly encouraged to wear a mask. “While it isn’t absolutely required, it is the civic-minded thing to do,” Garza added.

He urged voters to be patient and to protect other community members, including elections staff, in the process of casting ballots. More information is available at cameronvotes.com.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com