Voter turnout is up significantly across the state, including right here in Cameron County.
In just the first three days of General Election early voting, turnout is up 64 percent at South Padre Island City Hall, and 40 percent at the hon. Bennie Ochoa County Annex Building in Port Isabel compared to the first three days of early voting in 2012.
From Monday through Wednesday, 881 ballots had been cast in Port Isabel while 417 were cast on the Island. Comparatively, only 628 and 254 ballots were cast at the same locations, respectively during the first three days of voting in 2012.
The numbers are higher compared to the 2008 General Election, as well – 45.6 percent higher at the Bennie Ochoa building. Early voting wasn’t being held on the Island during the first week in that election.
More than 10 percent of Cameron County’s registered voters have cast their ballots already, according to County Election Administrator Remi Garza. “The number one thing is the high turnout – the absolute presence of the voters at the polling places,” Garza said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“We do have lines at some locations, but they’re moving very quickly. People aren’t being discouraged by that, which is fantastic,” he said. “We hope the pattern holds.”
Approximately 44 percent of registered voters exercised their right to vote in the 2008 and 2012 General Elections, but this year’s increased traffic could mean that that percentage receives a significant bump when all is said and done.
While President Barack Obama won Cameron County with a comfortable margin in both elections – nearly 64 percent in 2008, and 65 percent in 2012- the race is much closer this year. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, and real estate mogul Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, are currently engaged on a race so close for the traditionally red state of Texas that the polls are hovering near the margin of error.
According to the political analysis site, fivethirtyeight.com, Trump is leading the polls in Texas by 49 percent to Clinton’s 43.5 percent.
With such a close race, even more voters are expected at the polls in coming days, meaning more potentially long lines. Remi Garza implored residents to remain patient. “We just want to remind everybody to be patient with the poll workers,” Garza said.
As long as a voter is line to vote by that day’s deadline, they will be allowed to cast their ballots. For instance, polls on Election Day, Nov. 8, will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If a voter is standing in line at 7 p.m., they will be allowed to vote.
Residents should also note that significant portion of the state’s strict Voter ID law, Senate Bill 14, was struck down by a federal court in July, finding that it discriminates against minorities un violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Though voters will still be asked to present one of seven valid forms of photo identification – such as a Texas driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, or military ID card, among others – voters will be able to cast their ballots without such identification. Those without accepted forms of identification will be asked to sign affidavits of “reasonable impediment,” Garza said.
“Whatever the impediment is, as long as they express at the time, it’s accepted at the polling location,” Garza said. The ballots will be processed like any other.
Residents who have questions or concerns about the election, or who wish to report suspected misconduct are encouraged to contact the County elections office. “They can contact us here at this office, or they can contact the Secretary of State’s office. Garza said.
– By Dina Arevalo