Major turnout: First day of early voting breaks records

Voters walk past a line of cars waiting to vote curbside Tuesday morning outside the early voting polling location at the Brownsville Public Library Main Branch. .(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The first day of early voting in Cameron County for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election was one for the record books, reports county elections department Administrator Remi Garza.

A whopping 10,985 ballots were cast on Tuesday at the county’s 24 early voting sites, the highest single-day number in county history and an indicator that turnout over the whole early-voting period is likely to be substantial, he said. It was nearly a 60 percent increase over November 2018, when 6,975 voters went to the polls on opening day, Garza said.

“This is phenomenal, to have that level of interest on the first day,” he said. “It’s almost 5,000 voters more than what we would normally see during a presidential or a gubernatorial election. We have more sites open and we have more time. If this is an indication, we’re on track to blow past every early voting turnout that we’ve had in the past.”

Early voting, which ends Oct. 30, was extended by a week this year due to the pandemic. All the polling places were busy Tuesday, though the sites with the heaviest turnout were the Brownsville Public Library, Harlingen County Annex, Harlingen Cultural Arts Center, the San Benito Community Building and the county’s three super-center curbside/walk-in voting sites, Garza said.

“I’m real proud of our election workers because they were able to absorb it and the public was extremely patient with them,” he said. “I think everybody understood that this was a unique set of circumstances. In the morning we had almost sometimes a 40-minute delay with the curbside voting, but by the end of the day it was down to almost nothing at some locations. I think Brownsville Public Library maybe had a 25-minute wait to go into the polling place.”

Garza pointed out that several other sites, such as the super center at the Brownsville Event Center, have plenty of voting booths available for walk-ins and weren’t as busy.

“It’s a great facility,” he said. “Easy parking. Easy voting. The same goes for the Brownsville Independent School District location. It’s extremely quick and efficient. If people are looking for alternate locations, they should give us a call and we can kind of steer them to where there are less active sites.”

More than $2.5 million in grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the University of Southern California (Arnold) Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy made possible setting up super-center sites at the Harlingen Convention Center and the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center as well as the Brownsville Event Center.

On Oct. 19 the county will open an additional early voting site at the Santa Maria Independent School District Administration Building. A complete list of early voting sites can be found on the elections department website, cameroncounty.us/elections. The Election Hotline is (956) 504-1363.

County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said the record showing by residents exercising their civic responsibility should be a source of pride for the county, and that he’d like to see the same level of participation in the census. Garza said the record voting turnout is obviously driven by the national political situation.

“I think for once in a long period of time what’s happening on the national level is influencing what’s happening on the local level,” he said.

Garza reminded voters that the best way to guarantee a glitch-free voting process is to bring a valid form of identification (see the elections department website) and study sample ballots before heading to a polling place.

“We just want to thank everybody for their patience and make sure people review their sample ballot so they can move through those voting processes as smoothly and quickly as possible,” he said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS

Cameron County early voting locations