Turnout leading up to Tuesday’s special election for Texas House District 118 has lagged compared to the most recent previous special election, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said.

During early voting, 2,845 voters cast ballots in the special election race to choose former state Rep. Leo Pacheco’s successor; Pacheco left his seat in August to take a job with San Antonio College.

In February 2019, 3,740 people voted early in the special election for House District 125, the last time Bexar County had a special election for a Texas Legislature seat. State Rep. Ray Lopez eventually prevailed in a runoff in that contest.

Five candidates are running for HD 118, which is more than 70 percent Hispanic. The district covers much of south Bexar County and curls around to include parts of the east and northeast. With so many choices in a low-turnout race, a runoff is likely.

The decrease in voter turnout accompanies a truncated early voting period. In 2019, the special election for HD 125 had the typical two weeks of early voting, while this election only had five days of early voting between Sept. 20 and Sept. 24. Voters are able to cast ballots at any location in Bexar County during early voting.

Gov. Greg Abbott called for an “expedited special election” to fill the HD 118 seat, which is allowed when a seat gets vacated within 60 days of the Legislature convening, Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor said. Abbott called for the special election on Sept. 7 and the Texas Legislature convened for their third special session on Sept. 20.

There would not have been enough time to let candidates file if early voting began earlier, Taylor said. In this case, state election law allows for a shortened early voting period.

The last time a special election in Bexar County had that few early-voting days was in January 2015, according to Callanen. In that special election for House District 123 and Senate District 26, there were only four days of early voting between Dec. 29, 2014 and Jan. 2, 2015. Polls were not open on New Year’s Day, a federal holiday.

“We were not happy campers,” Callanen said, remembering that election.

As of Monday, the Elections Department had received more than 1,000 mail-in ballots for the HD 118 special election, Callanen said. Adding in-person early voting with absentee ballots puts voter turnout right at 3.9% before election day. 

“That 2,800 in-person [number] does feel a little bit low,” she said. “But when I went back and looked at numbers, I don’t think we’ve ever broken double digits in a special election.”

In February 2019, 6.1% of registered voters cast ballots in HD 125. Callanen said she originally was hoping to see a similar turnout for the HD 118 special election, but she’s not optimistic, as most voters typically opt to cast ballots during the early voting period.

“Bexar County, we love early voting here,” she said. “It’s very rare we have an Election Day that even comes close to what we did in early voting.”

Read on for more information on how to vote in HD 118.

Can I vote in this election?

If you live in HD 118 and are registered there, yes! Find who your state representative is with this Bexar County Elections Department search tool.

How can I determine if I’m registered to vote?

You can check your voter registration status here. All you need is your Voter ID number or Texas driver’s license number, your name, county of residence, and date of birth.

When can I vote?

Election day is Tuesday, Sept. 28. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where can I vote?

There are 30 vote centers open on Tuesday and if you’re eligible to vote in House District 118, you can vote at any of them. Find a full list of locations here.

Can I cast an absentee ballot?

You can vote by mail if you are:

  • Going to be away from your county on election day and during early voting
  • Sick or disabled
  • 65 years of age or older on election day
  • Confined in jail but eligible to vote

The Texas Supreme Court determined last May that not having immunity to the novel coronavirus is not a “disability” and does not qualify a voter to cast a ballot by mail. But the court also said that voters can consider their own health and health history to decide whether to apply to vote by mail due to disability.

Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 or by 5 p.m. Sept. 29 if postmarked no later than 7 p.m. on Sept. 28.

What do I need to bring with me to vote?

You need to provide one of the following seven forms of identification:

  • Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas election identification certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas handgun license issued by DPS
  • U.S. military identification card containing your photograph
  • U.S. citizenship certificate containing your photograph
  • U.S. passport (book or card)

If you don’t have one of the seven forms of identification listed above and can’t reasonably get one, you can bring one of these:

  • A copy or original of a government document that shows your name and an address, including your voter registration certificate
  • A copy of or original current utility bill
  • A copy of or original bank statement
  • A copy of or original government check
  • A copy of or original paycheck
  • A copy of or original of (A) a certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (B) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law that establishes your identity, which may include a foreign birth document.
  • If your name for some reason does not appear on the list of registered voters but you did register to vote in time, you can cast a provisional ballot.

What’s on the ballot?

House District 118, which was vacated by former state Rep. Leo Pacheco in August after he accepted a job with San Antonio College. There are five candidates on the ballot; three are Democrats and two are Republicans. There will likely be a runoff following the results of election day.

Have more questions?

Check out VoteTexas.gov. Or ask us in the comments, and we’ll find an answer for you.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.