By LAURA B. MARTINEZ
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and what is happening nationally in the country is driving people to vote early in the Nov. 3 General Election and there are numbers that reflect that.
As of Friday, figures indicate that 60,246 early votes were cast in Cameron County and Remi Garza, administrator for the county’s Elections and Voter Registration Department, anticipates this year’s early votes will surpass the number of early votes cast in the 2016 General Election.
“ In 2016 we had a total of 61,339 in person early voting ballots. We are just over 5,000 votes away from surpassing the entirety and we still have a week to go,” Garza said.
He expects 70,000 to 80,000 early votes will be cast for this election.
More than 51 million early votes have been cast nationwide. In Texas, 5.9 million have voted early.
“ I honestly think COVID-19 is playing a factor because people are taking advantage of early voting to avoid crowds on the Election Day at the polls. But I also think the national news is filtering down to the local level at a much earlier point in the election cycle than before. A lot of the discussions that have been going on in the past couple of weeks and months, I think are registering on people’s consciences sooner so they are actually making decisions and are deciding whether they are going to vote or not,” Garza said.
With seven days left of early voting, Cameron County voters will have the chance to cast ballots this weekend, as well as next week. All 24 early voting locations in the county will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All 24 early voting locations will be open next week and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the last two days of early voting.
At the polls, facial coverings and social distancing are required, with frequent sanitation of voting stations and plastic shields between voting booths. All election workers are wearing face masks and gloves and are subject to medical checkups each day.
Garza said voters, who make it a tradition of voting on Election Day, should show up earlier to the polls and find time in the day when the polls aren’t going to be crowded. The polls are usually crowded in the morning — right when they open because people are voting before they head to work — and in the early evening when people get out of work.
He said voters should also try and review the ballots prior to heading to the polls since straight party voting is no longer allowed. “If you decide that Election Day is the way you want to go, vote early and give you self plenty of time,” he said.
Garza’s advice to voters: “People prepare, know where you are going to go vote, have a plan, review your sample ballot and be patient with the poll workers out there; they are your friends and neighbors.”
In addition to the presidential election, this year’s ballot includes races for U.S. Senator, U.S. Rep District 34, Cameron County Sheriff and District Clerk, state judicial races, five places on the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees, two on the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees, and three on the Brownsville Navigation District board.
People planning to vote will need to provide a form of photo identification.
Here is a list of the acceptable forms of photo ID provided by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office:
>>Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety
>>Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
>>Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
>>Texas Handgun License issued by DPS
>>United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph
>>United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
>>United States Passport (book or card)
According to the secretary of state, if a voter does not have a photo identification, the following information may be provided:
>>copy or original of a government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, including the voter’s voter registration certificate;
>>copy of or original current utility bill;
>>copy of or original bank statement;
>>copy of or original government check;
>>copy of or original paycheck; or
>>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 which establishes the voter’s identity (which may include a foreign birth document).
After presenting one of the forms of supporting ID listed above, the voter must execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration.
For more information, call the Cameron County Voter Registration and Elections Office at (956) 544-0809.