By HARRIET RAMOS
A record breaking 9.7 million Texans had cast their ballot by the time early voting ended on Oct. 30, which was over 700,000 more than voted in the entire 2016 election according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.
Over 94 million people had voted nationwide as of Nov. 2.
The polling location at Eastfield’s main campus reported more than 7,000 voters over the course of the three weeks. Election judge Charles Mullins said there was an average of 300 people per day.
Early voting ran from Oct. 13-30 this year after Gov. Greg Abbott extended early voting by a week due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Mullins thinks peoples’ politics are driving the early turnout.
“There’s so much controversy nationwide,” he said. “Both sides think ‘We’ve got to get out and vote.’”
Randy Young, a Republican from Garland who voted at Eastfield to avoid long lines at some of the other locations, said he thinks fear is behind the large number of early voters. People are scared of what will happen if the wrong candidate wins.
“I don’t want this country to become socialist,” he said. “And I believe in choosing life. That’s the biggest issue.”
Texas has gone to the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1980. In 2016 Trump took Texas by nine points, but the most recent CBS News poll shows Trump and Biden tied at 49%.
Texas is one of the largest prizes for a presidential candidate, its 38 electoral votes second only to California’s 55.
Camila Reyna from Pleasant Grove said this was the first time she has voted in a presidential election. Some of her family members are immigrants, and she said voting is a way she can represent them.
“Having our voice heard for our family is really important to us,” she said.
Texas Latino voters make up about 30 % of the voting population according to the Pew Research Center. They are considered a key vote that could make a difference in the outcome of the election.
Latisha Jones, 38, from Mesquite said she votes in every election and doesn’t see this election as being more important than previous ones.
She thinks the coronavirus is the reason for the large voter turnout this year.
“Everyone is on pins and needles,” she said. “To me it’s like any other election. . . . [Without COVID-19] I don’t think we would’ve had as many people out voting.”
Young said he only votes in presidential elections, and he typically votes early to get it over with. He said he did not want to vote by mail.
“I’m scared to because I’m afraid [the ballot’s] going to get misplaced or something,” he said. “If I don’t see it going in, I just don’t know.”
Mullins said the media has stoked fears that the mail service can’t be trusted. The first day of early voting 60 people showed up at the Eastfield location to surrender their mail-in ballots so they could vote in person. An average of five or six people a day followed suit.
Mullins said that is out of the ordinary. In previous elections five or six returned mail-in ballots during the entire election was considered a lot.
Of the 9.7 million early votes cast in Texas, only 973,083 were by mail according to the U.S. Elections Project.
Linda Brice from Mesquite said she didn’t apply for a mail-in ballot but was sent one anyway because she is over 65. She was looking forward to avoiding the lines at the polls, but after looking at her ballot realized there was a question about her address she didn’t understand.
“I thought, ‘Well, let me go do it in person,’” she said. “It all worked out. . . . It’s very important to me [to vote], given what’s going on.”