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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

“It was just as difficult as I expected,” Suffolk student says about early voting in Texas

Courtesy of Steve Rainwater via Flickr

Early voting in the state of Texas started last Tuesday. It was just as difficult as I expected it to be.

In Texas, voting by mail is only available for those over age 65 , those who are sick or disabled, out of the country on election day, or in jail (but are still legally allowed to vote). Governor Greg Abbott had previously ordered for there to be one ballot drop off box per county, including Harris county. Harris County encompasses the city of Houston, which is the third largest city in America. 

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that state court judge Tim Sulak issued a block to Abbott’s order. Sulak ruled that “restricting the number of boxes would put voters at risk” due to the current pandemic. The was already a block proposed by a federal judge that had previously been overruled by a New Orleans federal appeals court’s ruling on the matter. 

My parents and I went to vote on the first day of early voting, and when we got to our designated polling place, there was already a line wrapped around the building and out onto the street. In Texas, even well into October, it regularly gets up to 80 degrees every day. 

Our wait was shorter than those in Georgia earlier in the week, where waiting times were upwards of nine-and-a-half hours, like it was for a voter named Everlean Rutherford, according to NBC News

We still stood in line for over two hours in the heat, and while social distancing was encouraged, not many people followed the six-foot distance protocol. Masks we required in the building that the voting was held in, but not outside while waiting in line. When we finally were able to go inside, there was only one small room with voting booths. The poll workers had plexiglass shields up, but no one in the room was able to socially distance properly.

My family moved to Texas in March 2020, just a couple of weeks before the shutdowns across the country started. Due to this, the DMV had been booked for months, and the earliest appointments that we could get to get new licenses were in March 2021. My parents had issues with getting registered to vote, and had an unexplained “suspended” voter registration until they were able to finally get someone on the phone months later to fix the issue.

All three of us had Georgia picture IDs and went to the polling place with our voter registration cards that had our current address and other important information on them. We were still pulled aside while a poll worker had to call in and verify our registrations. 

While this was happening, people were regularly standing right beside us, bumping into us, and the tiny room we were all in offered no peace of mind when it came to keeping our personal space. Finally, after about 20 minutes of fighting to get our ballots, we were able to vote. Even as we were leaving, there was a group of people huddled by the exit. 

As someone who voted in the 2018 midterm election, and who accompanied my mother when she went to vote in the 2016 presidential election, this was nothing like I had seen before. 

Despite everything that we and other Texans went through to vote, Texas saw record numbers of early voting ballots cast. The Houston Chronicle reported that “2.6 million ballots in-person or vial mail” were cast in the first two days, with two weeks left of the early voting period. 

The Houston Chronicle wrote that “just under 9 million total votes were cast in Texas” as a whole in the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. With 16.9 million people registered to vote in the state, the number rose by 1.8 million since 2016, as reported by USA Today. The election budget in Harris County also rose from 2016, going from $4 million to $33 million this election year, according to The Texas Tribune.

One thing that we found strange was that our polling place was covered in campaign signs, as any polling place would be, but there was not a single Donald Trump sign or flag on the premises despite Texas being a historically Republican state. But that doesn’t speak much to the state’s history. 

Texas has not gone “blue” since 1976, when Jimmy Carter won the state, and with 38 electoral college votes, it would be a big win for either candidate. Texas is not officially being called a battleground state, but The New York Times reported that “its solid red hue has started fading to purple.”

We’ll see just how true this is on Nov. 3.

Follow Hailey on Twitter @haiIeycampbell

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About the Contributor
Hailey Campbell
Hailey Campbell, Staff Writer | she/they
Hailey is a sophomore from Houston, Texas, and is a political science major. She enjoys spending her free time collecting coffee mugs, catching flights and wandering museums. She has moved around the country a ton and will happily talk your ear off about it. After graduation, she wants to be a lawyer in a big city. Follow Hailey on Twitter @haiIeycampbell

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    Dudley SharpNov 26, 2020 at 6:11 am

    I voted early in Houston Texas. No line, easy parking, thoughtful people.

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“It was just as difficult as I expected,” Suffolk student says about early voting in Texas