First day of early voting draws thousands

Some with umbrellas and foldable chairs, hundreds if not thousands of mask-wearing Brownsville residents showed up to exercise their civic duty and vote for the candidates of their choice on Tuesday, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 3 General Election, throughout the city.

According to Cameron County officials, there are approximately 219,000 individuals registered to vote in Cameron County. In the 2016 election, there were 197,726 registered to vote with only 91,804 individuals actually voting in the county.

“We are really excited with the number of people who are coming out to vote. The traffic that we’ve seen these first two hours have been pretty significant,” Elections Administrator Remi Garza said Tuesday morning at one of the voting locations.

“We got lines of not only vehicles, but people waiting patiently to vote is fantastic, it is going to be a great turnout.”

Although the lines were long at some of the places such as the Brownsville Public Library, where people waited approximately 30 to 45 minutes to cast their ballot depending on the time of the day, voters were seen socially distancing and wearing face masks.

“We want to make sure that people understand that we are doing everything we can to protect them and to protect the vote,” Garza said. “Make sure you review your ballots so that you can understand who is going to be there and you go through the process quicker, make sure that everything you want to vote for gets covered so that you don’t end up having to spend a lot of time in the polling place.”

Due to the political climate, some residents who have been eligible to vote in previous elections but did not vote, are casting their ballot for the first time to be part of what has been described as one of the most important elections of our lifetime.

Such is the case of Brownsville resident Matthew Fernandez, who went to vote at the Brownsville Public Library during his work lunch hour because he thinks it is crucial to participate in the election this time.

“I’m voting for change, I’ve never voted before,” he said while waiting in line to cast his ballot. “I’m here to make a difference. Watching the news and media, I will continue to vote.”

Unlike Fernandez, there are others who have voted for years and participated in almost every election they can recall. Such is the case of Richard T. Hernandez, a veteran who thinks the best way to voice your opinion is by voting. Hernandez recalled a documentary he watched on women’s suffrage and said it is important to vote because it took a lot of effort to be able to vote, and yet, many people decide not to participate.

“If you don’t vote, you should not complain,” he said while waiting in line with a hat that read Veterans of Foreign Wars. “I was watching before the debate, the women’s suffrage, it took them more than 70 years and they got the votes but it took them 70 years to vote, can you believe that? And not only that, but they endured a lot of problems, being killed, being humiliated and nowadays women are excelling. I just can’t believe everything they suffered to be able to vote, and yet, a lot of people don’t vote.”

Brownsville resident Sienna Martinez said given the climate of 2020 with COVID-19 and everything else the nation has experienced, she considers it is now more important than ever to go out and vote, with this election being one of the most important in recent years.

“It is a very important and even monumental election, you could say, because of all the effects we’ve had this year as a nation and just the political climate in general,” she said.

“Don’t ever think your vote doesn’t count, so many of our ancestors fought in wars and so many different things have happened to ensure that we have the right to vote, so don’t take that for granted.”

Voters must bring a valid photo ID or approved form of identification with them to the polls to be able to vote. Approved alternatives forms of ID are listed on the elections department website, Voters can also go to the website to find early voting sites as well as the locations of polling places on Election Day, Nov. 3, or call the elections office (956) 544-0809.