Bexar County voters have broken the in-person turnout record for early voting, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said Monday – and there are still five early voting days remaining.
As of Monday morning, more than 440,000 people had cast an in-person ballot, besting the previous record of 436,025 set in 2016, Callanen said. This year’s total also includes 13,004 voters who have canceled their absentee ballots so they can instead vote in person.
“We know our voter registration numbers were up 12 to 13 percent,” Callanen said. “Looking at that percentage, adding to 2016, we should end with 488,000.”
In this final week, which was made possible because of an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott issued extending the early voting window because of the pandemic, polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the first time, giving voters an extra two hours nightly to get to the polls. While daily early voting totals have slowed – the daily average turnout dropping by about 2,000 voters between the first and second weeks of early voting – Callanen said she anticipates Thursday and Friday to be the most hectic.
“Our voters are creatures of habit,” she said. “You have the ones that want to vote right away and the ones that want to wait and see what’s happening.”
“On those last two nights, we know people are still rushing to polls at 8 o’clock,” she added.
Thousands of voters also have used the curbside voting option, Callanen said, which allows voters who are unable to stand in line or vote inside to call the Elections Department ahead of time and ask for a staffer at their chosen polling place to help them vote from their car.
Bexar County continues to exceed previous mail-in ballot records. The Elections Department has mailed out more than 115,000 absentee ballots so far, but the total number has not yet been finalized as people who emailed or faxed their ballot applications by Friday (the last day to submit a mail-in ballot application) still have four days to send in their original ballot application, as required by state law, Callanen said. More than 75,000 completed absentee ballots have already been returned.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked or dropped off at the Elections Department by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots that are mailed through the postal service must be received by the Elections Department by 5 p.m. Nov. 4, the day after Election Day. That gives voters who emailed or faxed a copy of their ballot application to the Elections Department last Friday a tight window to send in their physical ballot application, receive their ballot from the Elections Department, complete their ballots, and mail them back in by Election Day, Callanen said.
“If we mail Friday and they get it Saturday, we’re pushing it,” Callanen said.
Callanen also said Monday that the Elections Department already has hired more than 2,300 election workers for Election Day, a new record. The department also plans to have backup staff in place to avoid shutting down polling places. During the July runoff, election workers concerned with their safety due to the coronavirus pandemic opted not to work causing 11 voting sites to close before Election Day.