With Texas voter registration significantly down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, MOVE Texas and Spurs Sports and Entertainment partnered to bring San Antonio a first-of-its-kind event Tuesday evening.
The voter registration drive-thru event invited San Antonians to come to the AT&T Center where they could get registered to vote before the Oct. 5 registration deadline from the socially distanced safety of their vehicle.
From 6 to 8 p.m., volunteers with MOVE Texas and the Spurs answered residents’ questions about voting, helped drivers fill out the registration form, and offered participants a chance to get some Spurs swag. MOVE Texas is a locally headquartered nonpartisan nonprofit organization aiming to increase voter registration and turnout in the state.
H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas, said he and his team were excited to hear from the Spurs staff several weeks ago when they pitched the idea.
The pandemic has made voter registration particularly difficult in Texas, where online registration is not yet a reality, he said. Galloway noted Texas is one of only nine states that still requires an in-person signature to register a voter; currently 40 states offer online voter registration, and Oklahoma is phasing in implementation of online registration.
The Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this summer new voter registrations in Texas were down nearly 30 percent for the first six months of 2020 compared with a similar period in the 2016 presidential election year, based on its own analysis of state figures.
In previous years, MOVE Texas has been able to send out staff and volunteers to concerts, farmers markets, and onto college campuses to encourage voter participation, Galloway said. This year, that hasn’t been possible, he said.
“We are super proud to be here today,” Galloway said. “We’re really happy with the turnout, there’s been hundreds of people. The line started forming at 4:30 p.m., and we’ve had a steady stream of cars coming through since opening the gates.”
Charlie Bonner, MOVE Texas communications director, said MOVE Texas has partnered with the Spurs in the past to help the sports organization get their own staff members educated about the election process and registered to vote. This is the first public event the two operations have co-hosted, Bonner said.
Spurs Sports and Entertainment Corporate Relations Manager Shermeka Hudson said the Spurs are excited to further encourage civic engagement in a public setting. Hudson said the Spurs reached out to MOVE Texas because they saw an opportunity to expand the reach of their own efforts beyond their staff.
As a first-time voter at 90 years old, San Antonio resident Bernice Cichon said she heard about the event on the radio and decided she had to register to vote this year. Cichon had her daughter drive her to the event and through one of the five lanes where she was aided in registering to vote by several young MOVE Texas volunteers in bright yellow T-shirts.
“I felt this year is a very important year to vote,” Cichon said. “If there’s ever been a year to vote, this is the year.”
After handing back a clipboard through the passenger side window of her daughter’s SUV, Chichon was given a pin-on button from the Spurs Coyote, who was decked out in an Uncle Sam costume and riding a miniature dirt bike around Lot 3 of the AT&T Center.
In front of several booths set up by the 10 MOVE Texas staff members and their 51 volunteers sat the five Spurs championship trophies. Participants of the voter registration were invited to get out and take a photo in front of the trophies, or to purchase a limited-time Spurs T-Shirt.
As his wife filled out her registration form, Jay Winbush said he and his spouse came to the event because voting is the right thing to do as an American.
“It’s our liberty to exercise our vote,” he said.
Winbush said this will be his and his wife’s first time voting in San Antonio, after recently moving to the area.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) came to the event to thank drivers as they left for coming out and registering to vote. Calvert said he wanted to see democracy in action.
“I’m very aware we live in a country that fully allows us to exercise our right to vote,” Calvert said. After the pandemic caused low voter registration numbers this year, he said he was glad to see such a large turnout for the event. “People have been focused on survival. … We’re observing a critical period in history and have to come together as a community.”
San Antonio Report is a nonpartisan news organization and does not support or endorse political candidates or ballot propositions.