AUSTIN, Texas — Primary runoff elections typically do not get a high turnout, but nothing has been normal in 2020, and politics is no exception. Texans are coming out to vote in high numbers, despite the deadly coronavirus pandemic. While the virus may not be stopping voters from turning out, the federal and state response to it may be empowering many to show up to the polls.
What You Need To Know
- Majority of early voters voted in Democratic primary
- State health officials reported another record daily high of coronavirus cases
- More than a million Texans voted in person or by mail during early voting period
With all the Texans coming out to vote, some say you’d think it was an election in November, not July.
“People are anxious to vote. I think they're disillusioned with the leadership in general, but definitely during the pandemic. And it's been very wishy-washy. And I think people just want to feel like their vote is going to have a say in how we change that leadership,” voter Angelica Simon said.
Simon showed up to vote at the Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North with her 22-year-old son Eric, who said this was the first time he has voted in a runoff election.
“The pandemic is something that is scary and people realize that with the ability to vote, they have some say in how this turns out. It’s scary, it’s important, and I’m glad people are coming out to vote,” Eric Simon said.
During the July 14 primary runoff election, state health officials reported another record daily high of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Texas. Despite this, some elections administrators are noticing a difference between 2020 and 2016.
“It's the difference between ‘little teeny’ and ‘great big.’ There's a big difference between the two. This runoff election has behaved more like a presidential election than any other runoff we've ever seen,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said.
Texans also voted early in high numbers this year, but they did have an extra five days to do so. According to the Texas Secretary of State, more than one million Texans voted in person or by mail during the early voting period. A majority of those early voters voted in the Democratic primary. Through the end of early voting, the cumulative number of in-person and mail-in voters in Travis County alone increased by more than 1,000 percent compared to the 2016 primary runoff election.
“It makes them feel like they are doing something about at least some of the things that they find frustrating. So, I think their motivation is — voters want to try to fix things,” DeBeauvoir said.
The de la Garza family was among the more than 37,000 in Travis County who showed up in person for the runoff Tuesday. With the safety protocols in place they said they felt comfortable. Mother Trina de la Garza said election workers at her polling site wore masks and were behind face shields. She said they worked to minimize contact and maintain physical distance.
“They had green Xs that showed you were six feet apart from the next individual if there was a line, but there really was no line,” Trina de la Garza said.
For this family and other voters, working from home also created an opportunity. Father Eloy de la Garza said he was able to take a break from work and made a point to vote earlier in the day.
“There's so many people who are now working from home who can't use the excuse, ‘Well, I worked all day. I was tired, I had to get my kids I ran out of time.’ So, now there's so many more people who can come out today,” he said.
The pandemic may have given Texans pause, but it did not seem to stop them from coming out to vote.