Attendees waiting in line to enter La Trinidad United Methodist Church are encouraged to register to vote.
Texas ranked 46 of 50 for voting access in the 2022 edition of the Cost of Voting Index. The deadline to register to vote for the upcoming election is Oct. 11. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9, and Bexar County residents are hustling to help people register.

Since 2013, the number of volunteers certified to register voters in Bexar County – known as volunteer deputy registrars – has steadily risen.

Between 2013 and 2014, Bexar County had 1,758 volunteer deputy registrars. In 2015 and 2016, 1,856 people were deputized. Between 2017 and 2018 — which isn’t over yet — the number increased again to 2,143.

And to add to 2018’s numbers, nearly 160 more volunteer deputy registrars were sworn in on Tuesday at the Bexar County Elections Department.

The number of registered voters in Bexar County also has increased over the years. In the 2014 midterm elections, 959,438 people registered and 304,092 cast ballots. In 2016, the last presidential election, more than 1 million people registered while 598,691 voted.

Valid deputy registrar status expires at the end of every even-numbered year, so people deputized between 2017 and 2018 will have to be re-deputized next year.

Kristy Torralva, a voter registrar with the Elections Department, officiated a volunteer class on Tuesday morning. Nearly every seat was filled, and the volunteers listened to Torralva explain the rules and procedures of registering Bexar County residents to vote.

Ruby Washington, a first-time volunteer deputy registrar, joked that she was retired and didn’t have anything better to do. She added that she believes voting and helping others register to vote is important.

“I think it’s our civic duty to do it,” she said.

Torralva said when “big elections” like the midterms or a presidential election nears, volunteer class attendance spikes. Volunteer registrars also account for much of Bexar County’s voter registration, she said. She estimated that 50 percent of registered voters register in person, while the other half do so through a deputized volunteer.

“[Volunteer deputy registrars] want to engage people,” Torralva said. “They see it’s their right to vote and want to promote that. Those that don’t know or understand the application, our deputies are engaging and telling them.”

And the more deputies, the better, she added.

“Since we can’t be at all the functions, our deputies can be there one-on-one with the person [applying],” Torralva said.

The Elections Department also holds outside classes when organizations request them. In August, all of San Antonio Independent School District’s librarians were deputized as volunteer registrars.

Analisa Spicer, a librarian at Barkley-Ruiz Elementary, hasn’t registered anyone to vote yet, but said she has been asking parents if they’re already registered. She said her ZIP code generally has low turnout, and that’s why she wanted to be deputized.

“It’d be nice if the word could get out more that anybody can get deputized,” Spicer said. “Anybody can get the vote out. It’s exciting, to give others a voice.”

When she was a high school English teacher, Spicer used to teach her students about candidates by analyzing their speeches. Now, she holds mock elections every two years for her elementary schoolers.

Spicer also learned that Texas high school principals are automatically deputized when she took the volunteer class in August.

“If I had known that principals were deputized, I would have known where to send [my high school students] to,” she said.

Terrie Simpson is a resident of unincorporated Bexar County near Camp Bullis, and serves as an election judge of her precinct. She was sworn in as a Bexar County deputized volunteer registrar on Tuesday. She’s particularly invested in November’s election because San Antonio put annexation of her neighborhood and those surrounding her on the ballot. But when she steps into her election judge role, she said, she puts aside any personal political opinions.

“We take off our political hats,” she said. “It’s never mentioned. We only help the voters to vote. Every vote counts.”

“Voting is very important,” she added. “It’s who we are as a nation.”

Bexar County Elections Department will hold two more volunteer deputy registrar classes on Oct. 2.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.