After Bexar County residents saw long lines at polling places on the first day of early voting, local registered voter Lily Casura reached for her laptop.
Casura created the Bexar County Voting Locations and Wait Times Facebook group Wednesday and saw more than 1,000 people join in the first 24 hours, she said.
“I started the group yesterday morning, over coffee, after thinking through it the night before and basically coming up with an easier solution on the fly,” Casura said in an email Thursday.
She modeled the Facebook group’s structure after a popular local Facebook group that helped San Antonio-area residents find certain items at grocery stores when people were stockpiling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other goods. But in this case, Casura said she wanted to make sure there was a resource for people to avoid longer lines at polling places if possible. If people have to wait longer than expected to cast a ballot, they might just give up, she said.
“I felt like if we could just share with people where the wait times were shortest it would sweeten the deal and actually help people get out to vote,” she said in an email. “People came through big-time on this, and really picked up the intent of the [Facebook group] and have shared great and helpful content ever since. It feels like a real community has been built around this, in just over 24 hours.”
Interested Facebook users can still join the Voting Locations and Wait Times group, although the group’s administrators cannot personally invite people to join. In what Casura said was a “very frustrating” move, Facebook’s algorithm appears to have restricted that option. But the people that are on the page have been using it prolifically, posting photos of lines and screenshots of their phones’ stopwatch apps to demonstrate how long they waited at a certain site.
“The most popular posts in terms of sharing seem to be about how to help disabled voters vote – they can go to the front of the line or they can call the election office and ask for curbside voting at a location they’re headed to,” Casura said in an email. “Apparently many people did not know this, so I hope we’re helping a lot of people actually ‘close the loop’ with voting and not just give up because the line is long.”
As of Thursday, the group had more than 1,400 members. People continued to post short blurbs on the Facebook group marking the location they voted at and how long they waited in line.
“Southside ISD was around a 30-40 minute wait! Not bad at all,” one group member wrote.
“Granados Senior Center … in and out in less than 10 minutes!” another group member shared.
The page now has 11 moderators helping to monitor posts on the group and approve requests from Facebook users who want to join. The moderators mostly delete political posts to avoid endorsing one party over another, Casura said.
Casura herself voted on Wednesday and consulted the Facebook group to choose her voting location. She ended up going to the Great Northwest Library and waited for 30 minutes before casting her ballot.
“Last time I voted, during the runoff, it was not the greatest experience,” she said in an email. “My partner and I went to two different sites, each with very long wait times … and it felt very draining. I was expecting that this time, but the site came through and it was very speedy.”
People who want to learn more about the candidates on their ballot before heading to the polls still can consult the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area’s voting guide. Though libraries are closed for in-person services, they still provide contactless delivery for checked-out library materials. Librarians will also bring out physical copies of the Voters Guide for people who call ahead and ask, according to Glenda Wolin, the vice president of voter service for the local League of Women Voters.
“We send questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot with questions composed by a committee of League members, then approved by the board, to make sure they are fair, not slanted toward any viewpoint,” Wolin said in an email Thursday. “All candidates in each race get the same questions. They answer directly into the electronic software that becomes our online VOTE411 and our Voters Guide, without any editing on our part.”
The guide also includes explanations of the three San Antonio sales tax propositions about Pre-K for SA, the City’s workforce development initiative, and more funding for public transportation. Find a digital version of the Voters Guide here.
Early voting continues through Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3. Find more information about when and how to vote here.