Voters arrive early to cast Election Day ballots

By Denise Cathey and Elsa Cavazos, Staff writers

It’s a few minutes after 6:40 a.m. when Scott McQuarrie, 67, rides his bike up to the polling location at the Cameron County Courthouse Judicial Complex. Through the closed doors Cameron County Election Department employees can be seen scurrying back and forth as they make last minute preparations and adjustments before the site officially opens.

Sporting a cycling outfit decorated with the American flag, McQuarrie settles in to wait to cast the first ballot of the day when the poll opens at 7 a.m.,

“I didn’t expect to be first. I came around the corner and I said ‘well I’m early!’. It feels good,“ McQuarrie said.

For him it’s tradition and a sense of civic duty that bring him to the polls every Election Day.

“I think it’s my constitutional duty and I would like to see the outcome I would like to see. Without me voting, it’s not a democracy. Whoever votes decides who wins,”

Across town at Burns Elementary, 31-year-old Alyssa Fajardo makes the short walk to her car after voting at the site, “I Voted’ sticker in hand.  For her casting her vote on Election Day is about being heard.

“It’s important to me to have my voice heard and to make a difference. Our current time is a mess and your vote matters,” Fajardo said.

No lines in Harlingen

For those looking for short lines and a quick trip to the polls, early morning was the best option.

Polling sites in Harlingen opened at 7 a.m. with short lines, and voters agreed it took less than 10 minutes to cast their votes.

Danny Marez, of Harlingen, said he had intended to do early voting, but he missed the deadline. Marez went to the Harlingen Convention Center on Monday afternoon, where he was instructed to vote at his precinct, Harlingen High School South.

“I tried to do early voting, but it didn’t quite work out. I wasn’t the only one. There were about four individuals at the convention center last night,” Marez said.

“It is a real important election, and I wanted to come and do my part,” he said.

This morning, Marez said voting at Harlingen South was smooth and easy.

The majority of the polling sites in Harlingen were located in elementary schools and middle schools, such as Vernon Middle School and Bowie Elementary School.

However, the polling site with the most traffic was at the Boggus Education Pavilion located at 2110 Benwood Dr.

The site hosted three different precincts and had people coming in and out steadily around 8 a.m.

Jeff Tait, of Harlingen, said he decided to vote on Election Day because it is his right and it is important to exercise your rights. He said he was delayed for early voting.

“We always need to exercise our rights when they are offered to us,” he said. “It was easy, fast, no delays. It is a nice morning to step outside and get it done. I vote every year, and I have always voted in person.”

For Tait, casting his ballot through the mail was not the optimal option.

“I am always cautious about sending something through the mail. I read something somewhere that said, ‘Well, would you mail yourself $10,000 guaranteeing it would get back to you?’” he said.

“I always do it in person because I want to ensure my vote gets counted. I encourage everyone to exercise their right, and it is kind of your duty as a citizen to do so,” Tait said.

Others came back from traveling just in time to cast their ballot, like Kay Den Tamayo.

“I am a traditionalist. I prefer to do it in person. I drove all the way back from Oklahoma yesterday just so that I could be here to vote,” Tamayo said.

“I was up, and I had been visiting. But I live here. Everything was smooth. I really appreciate those people who are volunteers and are on the election board and committee,” she said.

Tamayo said she hopes to become a volunteer herself when the time comes.

Eric Castillo, of Harlingen, said he always waits for Election Day. It is his tradition.

“I wait until the last minute. I always do everything in person. It is a habit, and these times it is kind of a bad habit. But it was an easy process; it was great,” Castillo said.

“Everybody needs to go out there and voice their right,” he said.