New voters register in Hidalgo Co. to mark national registration day

Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com Jenny Rentaria, Hidalgo County voter registration specialist, helps residents compete their voter registration Tuesday from the curb in front of the Hidalgo County elections offices in Edinburg.

EDINBURG — One by one, the vehicles pulled up to the front of the new office of the Hidalgo County Elections Department, where they were greeted by masked staff eager to facilitate the voting process.

“Do you need to register to vote? Necesita registrarse para votar,” Belinda Sagredo asked in English and Spanish to everyone who approached the office Tuesday.

“Si,” Cruz Saenz responded from inside his gray truck.

The 58-year-old said he wanted to register to vote for the first time in his life.

“I’ve been a citizen for years, but …this is the first time I’m going to vote,” he said in Spanish with a big grin Tuesday.

Saenz was just one of more than 100 potential voters who either walked-in or drove to the elections office’s new headquarters on Tuesday. The office extended its hours of operation until 8 p.m. that day to mark National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan observation that is celebrated the fourth Tuesday of September.

“We extended the hours because there’s a lot of people that work throughout the day,” Sagredo, division manager for voter registration said. “We’re trying to make it easier for them so that they can just drive up, get an application, fill it out and they can be on their merry way.”

Saenz, who heard about the event on television, said he drove from north of Edinburg to get the help.

“I tried to do it on my phone, but I couldn’t register by myself. So I came here to look for them,” he said.

Three out of four people who spoke to The Monitor after 5 p.m. Tuesday said they intended to become first-time voters in November.

Among them was a young woman who wished to only identify herself as Yvonne. She said the presidential election drove her to register.

“I had never voted before, and today it’s why I decided to come register to vote, because, to me, this election is going to mean a heck of a lot,” she said without elaborating.

Juan Jesus, 36, said he recently became a U.S. citizen and was looking forward to voting in November — so much so, that he wanted to make sure everything was in order Tuesday.

“We submitted all the paperwork, but with all the mailing delays and what’s going on, we decided just to verify,” he said from inside his white SUV.

A woman who only wished to identify herself as Christina said she too was concerned about mailing her voter registration application after moving back to Hidalgo County.

“I wasn’t too sure if when I did the change of address on my (driver’s) license if that carried over or not, and then I learned it wasn’t carried over,” she said. “I had the application, and I was going to mail it, but then I was like, eh, what if it gets lost? And I had seen on social media where you could just come here and do it in person, so I’d rather do that.”

The U.S. Postal Service recently came under fire after new Postmaster General Louis Dejoy ordered the removal of equipment used to handle mail-in ballots at several post offices across the nation.

The blowback was enough to convince some people to vote in person in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’d rather see that my vote goes in, and it goes in correctly,” Christina said. “I have been on the fence for years, and with what’s been going on right now, I feel this is the time to cast your vote on who would be the appropriate candidate to run our country.”

Voters have until Oct. 5 to register to vote for the upcoming general election. Gov. Greg Abbott extended early voting for an extra week, with the early voting period running from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.