Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said Wednesday that voter registration was up 11% headed into the 2022 midterm election — a sign that normally indicates a high-turnout election.
Yet the number of ballots cast has lagged in the first week and a half of early voting, trailing totals from the 2018 midterm by 13% in Bexar County through Tuesday.
“We can’t figure it out,” Callanen told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday.
Early voting continues through 8 p.m. Friday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8.
“Notoriously, the last two days of early voting are the busiest,” Callanen said. “… We’re hoping that we’ll see a whole lot of numbers go up.”
The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 11. The county has about 1.23 million registered voters, up from 1.19 million in 2020.
Bexar County leaders anticipated a high level of interest in this November’s election amid inflation and rising interest rates, the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling over the summer and calls for gun safety following the shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary.
Democrats on the Bexar County Commissioners Court pushed the Elections Department to keep the same number of Election Day voting locations as the county had operated during the 2020 presidential election, an idea Callanen resisted until a judge ordered the county to do so two weeks out from the start of early voting.
Bexar County will now have 302 Election Day voting locations, and Callanen said Wednesday that her department is prepared to staff them. The process for purchasing and testing new voting machines is lengthy, Callanen said, so the locations will share the county’s existing equipment.
Under Texas’ 2021 voting law, a large number of mail-in ballots for the March primary were rejected due to confusion about matching the form of identification that was used to register to vote and the identification form used on the ballot.
Callanen said Wednesday that the county has already received 61% of the mail-in ballots it sent out. Of the 6,000 mail-in ballots processed by Tuesday, Callanen said just 26 had been rejected, down from a rejection rate of roughly 22% in the primary.
Of the rejected ballots, she said enough time remains for those voters to correct any mistakes, a process known as curing, so their votes can be counted.
Other changes to the voting process this year include the allowance of partisan “poll watchers” to roam voting locations and observe the process.
Callanen said the change has yet to cause a problem, and many of the partisan volunteers lost interest after the first days of early voting.
“The first couple days of early voting the poll watchers were coming in and staying for extended times,” Callanen said. “Now they’re checking in in the morning and they’re leaving within a half hour, which I think is really a commendation to our election officials.”