Oct 14, 2020

Updates: On Election Day, Austin Voters Encounter Short Lines at the Polls; No Reports of Intimidation Efforts or Voting Issues

Reporting Texas

Smith County registered voters wait in line to cast their ballots at R.B. Hubbard Center on Oct. 15, 2020, in Tyler, Texas. Reporting Texas photographer Chloe Bertrand, who is working remotely in East Texas, captured this line outside of “The Hub,” one of seven polling locations in the county. Chloe Bertrand/Reporting Texas

Central Texas residents have begun casting ballots in what is shaping up to be an unprecedented presidential election. In addition to the challenges of voting during a pandemic, Texans are navigating a flurry of judicial rulings that address voting, including mail-in ballot restrictions, straight-ticket voting and the number of ballot drop-off locations counties are allowed.

Some election observers are leery of voter confusion and frustration at the polls. 

“I’m sure there will be last-minute confusion because of the legal battle going on right now,” said Ivy Major-McDowall, a field coordinator with the left-leaning voting rights group Texas Rising. “There’s just a confusing mixture, especially with social distancing and COVID-19 protocols.”

Travis County Republican Party spokesman Andy Hogue said Republicans worry about lax ballot security. “Voters need to know that their vote is secure, and it still matters,” Hogue said.

Even with the challenging nature of the election and concerns from both the political left and right, Travis County is well positioned to hold a smooth and fair election, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told Reporting Texas.

DeBeauvoir expects a fourfold increase in votes by mail compared to the 2016 presidential election, and she urged voters  not to wait until Election Day to vote. “We want voters to do the one thing that only they can do: go out and vote,” she added. 

From now until election day, Nov. 3, Reporting Texas correspondents will regularly file reports on how voting is going in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties. We will be checking on mail-in ballot drop off, early voting and actual election-day balloting.  Check back for updates.

Update Nov. 3,  7 p.m. — Julie Oliver makes appearance as voting ends in East Austin

Carment Kiara and his wife sell T-shirts for The Carment Kiara Youth Organization, a youth track program at the Carver Branch Library in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 3, 2020. Madi Donham/Reporting Texas

Democratic U.S. House candidate Julie Oliver stopped at the Carver Branch Library on Tuesday evening.

Oliver spoke to voters about healthcare, income taxes and not accepting money from political action committees and special interest groups.

Before the polling location closed at 7 p.m., Oliver bought a t-shirt from Carment Kiara, who was selling shirts outside the polling place to raise money for his youth track program, he said. The program focuses on underprivileged youth in Austin, Kiara said.

“Kids still need help. So we’re back to a pop and mom style shop on the corner getting it done,” he added.

Oliver told Kiara that she loved her new shirt. 

Oliver is running against incumbent Rep. Roger Williams for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas’ 25th Congressional District.

— Madi Donham

Update Nov. 3, 6:45 p.m. — Voters still tricking into Millennium Youth Complex in East Austin

Voting was slow at the Millennium Youth Complex in East Austin during the last hour of voting. 

A half hour before the polls closed, volunteers passed  out water bottles to the few voters who showed up.

Ruth Washington, a volunteer from Ebenezer Third Baptist Church said she and other volunteers had been at the polls since 9 a.m. this morning. Volunteers passed out 320 water bottles.

— Jillian Price

Update Nov. 3, 6:35 p.m.  — Low turnout early evening at recreation center

There were just two voters this evening at the Austin Recreation Center polling station in Central Austin during the last hours of voting.

It was a stark contrast to the hour-long lines spilling onto the parking lot during the first days of early voting.

“Why would I be anymore worried about this than our daily life,” said Matt Shanks, 33, on the coronavirus. “It’s important, even if there’s a small risk.”

Shanks, who works in healthcare, chose to come out this evening predicting a low turnout.

During Shanks’s interview, a woman stopped by to give pizza to voters, but Shanks was the only one there to take it.

—Ram Rodríguez

Update Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m. — Few voters as Bee Cave City Hall nears closing time 

The supporters of candidates that lined the street in front of Bee Cave City Hall outnumbered voters in the final hours of voting on Tuesday.

Ildiko Scott, a retail worker, had been at the polls since 7 a.m. waving a sign for Justin Berry, the Republican candidate for the Texas House of Representatives in district 47.

Scott said it had  been a slow day at the poll location.

Alex Walker, a 33-year-old lobbyist, came to the polling place to support Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate running for Texas’s 25th Congressional District.

“It’s important to not have any regrets,”  Walker said of the political process.

— Benton Graham

Update Nov. 3, 5:30 p.m. — Southpark Meadows busy

Things were lively at Southpark Meadows Tuesday evening.

Members of Democracy is Delicious, an organization committed to make voting easier, handed out drinks and snacks to voters as they returned to their vehicles.

Michael Fasko, 29, donned a Make America Great Again cap and danced to music blaring from a pickup truck. “Call it a one-man Trump rally!” Fasko said 

“People spit on us,” he added. “We’re out here with nothing but love.” Fasko was not wearing a mask.

One voter who declined to give his name said he waited to return to the polls after many elections until he saw a candidate he liked.

“It’s been a while, but I needed to see somebody a little different in there,” 54-year-old man said. 

—Harrison Young

Update: Nov. 3rd, 3:40 p.m. — Slow hour for Austin Oaks Church

Hundreds of signs promoting not only the presidential candidates but also those in local elections greeted voters at Austin Oaks Church in southwest Austin.

Situated in the midst of apartment complexes such as Sedona Springs and popular retailers such as Target, this is a prime place for Austin locals to cast their ballots. Yet turnout was slow in midafternoon, with the only poll workers and numerous political volunteers visible outside. There was no wait time for voting.

The voting took place inside the church’s Christian Life Center, where the contemporary and Nueva Vida church services normally occur.

Curbside voting was available in front of the Christian Life Center.

— Madelyn Gee

Update Nov. 3,  3:30 p.m. — Slow day at Chinatown polling place

Three poll watchers and one community college mascot showed up at the Chinatown polling place on Election Day.

“Today we had three different poll watchers and Riverbat, the lucky mascot of Austin Community College visit us,” Andrew Noble, a poll clerk at the location, said.  Noble has volunteered are the polling place since October 13, when early voting began. 

Almost all voters at the location have worn masks, Noble said.  “We can’t make anyone wear a mask, but we can ask, and they can refuse,” Noble added.

— Sumaiya Malik

Update: Nov. 3rd, 3:25 p.m. – Steady turnout in Pflugerville 

A Pflugerville Voter Support volunteer hands out snacks and water to voters at the ISD Rock Gym on 702 W Pecan St. on Nov. 3, 2020. Mizelle Mayo/Reporting Texas

The Pflugerville ISD Rock Gym had steady voter turnout throughout the afternoon. Several members of  Pflugerville Voter Support, a non-partisan support group for voters, were at the polling place handing out water and snacks to voters.

“Everyone has got to be involved,” Kelly Rock, a 40-year-old volunteer, said. 

The group of voting advocates stationed themselves at several voting locations in Central Texas through the last week of early voting and on Election Day. The volunteers choose the at the Rock Gym location because of the long lines last week for early voting, a volunteer said.

A few electioneers spread themselves out across the lawn and parking lot holding signs of their respective candidates.

Terry Newson, 62, waved a sign indicating his support of Bob Reichenbach for Pflugerville City Council .

“We need fiscally responsible leadership that sets reasonable and affordable goals,” Newson said.

Update: Nov. 3, 3:06 p.m. — Local issues motivating voters at Hartfield Performing Arts Center

Stella, a housewife and mother of two, stood in front of the Round Rock school district’s Hartfield Performing Arts Center and promoted three candidates for the school board: Jun Xiao, Mary Bone and Danielle Weston.

It was the first time she has gotten involved in politics, and she declined to give Reporting Texas her last name.

“We are not satisfied with what the current board is doing,” Stella said. “Both of my daughters go to Westwood High School. For the past eight years, I saw Westwood’s ranking, from nationwide number 47, drop to number 398,” she said.

“I want my kids to be in a great school. I want my neighborhood to attract more students. I want my house value to go up,” she added.

Other campaigners stood on the curbs of the parking lot holding signs for different school board candidates and handed out fliers and cards to voters who walking up to the polls.

Timothy Bray, 32, campaigned for Aura, an all-volunteer grassroots organization in Austin focusing on affordability for longtime residents and newcomers. He and three other volunteers posted themselves near the front of the performing arts center and handed out informational fliers about Austin City Council races as well as Props A and B, the mobility referendums.

“A lot of time people don’t know that the City Council is on their ballot, and a lot of people only vote for presidency,” Bray said. “So, we’re trying to talk to people about local issues and make sure that everyone’s engaged in the city issues.”

The arts center polling place had a steady stream of voters but no lines. Campaign workers said it had been like that the whole day.

— Mizelle Mayo 

Update Nov. 3,  3 p.m. — Two candidates greet voters at Renaissance Hotel in Northwest Austin

Ann Howard, first-time candidate for Travis County Commissioner, Pooja Sethi, candidate for Austin City Council District 10, and representatives from the  Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the voting rights group Common Cause, stood outside the polling station the Renaissance Hotel.

 “We have an attorney available on the hotline,” said Jacquie Muir-Broaddus, a volunteer with  Common Cause. “So far, we have not seen any issues,” 

Howard chatted with her daughter and son-in-law and greeted voters.  

Pooja Sethi, candidate for City Council District 10, greeted voters and guided them to poll workers in case they needed assistance. 

 The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a legal aid society that conducts Asian voter exit polls every two years, had a booth by the exit of the polling station. Representatives asked Asian voters to fill out a questionnaire related to candidate loyalties and voting issues.  

“We have stations in Austin, Houston, Dallas and 16 other states,” Lauren Kagetsu, a volunteer for the group, said. Immigration attorney and volunteer Sujata Ajmeri was on hand to help with any voter issues. 

— Sumaiya Malik

Update Nov. 3,  2 p.m. — Volunteers eager for voters on UT campus

Volunteers representing the non-profit voting rights group Common Cause, the Travis County Democratic Party, U.S. House candidate Julie Oliver and the rail advocacy group AURA  stood 100 ft. away from the polling place at the Flawn Academic Center on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus.

The volunteers were aiming to catch the attention of a small number of voters making their way to cast their ballots. 

Katie Hancock, a 20-year-old sophomore social work student at UT and volunteer with Election Protection, said her organization is working to ensure that the rights of all voters in Texas are upheld.

“I feel like I didn’t know a lot about the problems you could have voting because I’ve only voted once and it was really seamless, but that’s not the case for everyone,” Hancock said.

“If they tell you that you can’t vote, I tell them to come see me, but there hasn’t been any voter intimidation or issues here today,” she added.

Ronan O’Shea, a 25-year-old psychology graduate student at UT, arrived at the academic center at 7 a.m. to handout campaign literature for the Travis County Democrats. 

“A lot of the students seem very receptive. They’ll look at the stuff I give them or whatever and people seem genuinely interested,” O’Shea said.

The academic center  is one of two voting locations on UT’s campus.

— Madi Donham

Update Nov 3, 1:10 p.m. — Voting at Ben Hur Shrine steady but slow

James Sasinowski and Herbie Smith watched a steady stream of voters trickle into the Ben Hur shrine on Tuesday afternoon. The men, both in their 20s and coordinators for the Movement for a People’s Party, sat under a blue tent about 100 ft. outside the polling place. Inspired by Bernie Sanders, the goal of the movement is to create a  political party free from corporate influence, Sasinowski said. 

Three members of Your Minute Is Up, an organization that aims to recall Austin Mayor Steve Adler and several city council members, were seated behind a folding table in the shrine’s parking lot. A consistent stream of people approached the table, but the representatives wouldn’t say how many signatures they had collected for their petition to recall the mayor. 

As he left the polling place, a 35-year-old voter who declined to give his name said he voted for the first time.

“I just hate that everyone hates each other. That’s why I’m voting for the first time,” the man said.

—Harrison Young

Update Nov. 3, 12:20 p.m. — Steady stream of voters at Southpark Meadows 

Situated between a Bath and Body Works and Carter’s baby supply store, the polling pace at the South Park Meadows shopping center in South Austin had short wait times but saw a steady stream of voters just after noon.

A 21-year-old first-time voter who did not give his name, said he came out to participate in the presidential election. “It’s a big one, and it was my first one,” he said.

A few campaigners stood outside the polling place. “We plan to stay here all day,” said one man holding a sign for Mike Siegel, a Democrat running for Texas’ 10th Congressional district.

—Harrison Young

Update Oct. 30, 6:30 p.m. — First-time voter casts his ballot half hour before early voting ends 

“I just voted for the first time,” Long Huynh, 31, who works in information technology, said as he came out of the Chinatown voting location on North Lamar and Burnet Road.

When asked why he did not vote in the previous election, he said, “It seemed like they were pushing it a lot more.” Voter registration in Travis County reached an all-time high of 97% in October. 

At the Chinatown center, voters usually had to wait no more than ten minutes, similar to other days of early voting. Some voters picked up dinner at Pho Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant next door. A sign marked the 100 feet radius where people could take pictures.

Just under 11,000 voters have cast their ballot at this location. In the whole of Travis County about  520,000 voters cast ballots during early voting.

— Sumaiya Malik

Update Oct. 30, 6:00 p.m. — Voting steady at Williamson County voting location

On the last day of early voting, people waited for more than 40 minutes in a line that wrapped around the Randall’s grocery store at 2051 Gattis School Road. 

 “I just stood and was on my phone. Then I was reading the handouts about the candidates,” Carlos Nieto, 23, a student of Kinesiology at Concordia University, said. 

 Supporters of candidates stood across the wide service road holding placards.  Most voters were wearing masks and spaced about 3 feet apart. Cars filled the parking lot.

 Throughout early voting, waiting times have often been more than 40 minutes at the Randall’s polling place. According to the Williamson County Voter website, 11,646 have cast their ballots at this location as of October 29.  About 250,000 voters or 65% of the residents have cast their vote in all of Williamson County during early voting

— Sumaiya Malik

Update Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m. – Caldwell County sees increased turnout on last day of early voting

On the last day of early voting, Caldwell County saw a rise in voter participation, Election Administrator’s Assistant Mary Sanchez said.

During early voting, 41% of registered voters in the county cast ballots.

People of all demographics came out to vote early, Sanchez said. “It was refreshing to see.” 

—Harrison Young

Update Oct. 30, 4 p.m. — No wait time at Northeast Austin polling station

Voting was slow on the last day of early voting at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas polling place in Northeast Austin.

“I wanted to make sure that my vote counted. I knew everything was being done safely and with precaution. I wasn’t afraid to come out with everything that’s going on,” said Viviana Luna, 35.

Luna lives near the polling place and works as a property manager.

Voting locations in Northeast Austin have been less busy than other polling sites. 

As of Friday afternoon, the County Clerk’s office reported 9,467 votes at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas polling place, making it the 27th busiest location out of 37 in the county.

—Ram Rodríguez

Update Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. — UT students on record-breaking voter turnout among young people

Over 750,000 Texans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted during the first 11 days of early voting — the largest number in the nation — according to research from the Tufts Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 

During the 2016 election, only 106,000 Texans between the ages of 18 and 29 cast ballots during the first 11 days of early voting.

“I honestly think it’s because people on either side are more passionate about who they want to win,” said Sofia Reyes, a 19-year-old University of Texas at Austin sophomore who voted on campus. 

“Right now there’s more at stake,” she added.

Brielle Carter, a 21-year-old UT junior, said political posts on social media have encouraged her friends to vote.

“It’s been advertised to us so much now. It’s part of social media. It’s such a trend to talk about it. So it’s like we’re all doing it because of that,” Carter said.

Over 8,188,246 votes have been cast in Texas, constituting 48% of the state’s eligible voting population. 

A total of 8,969,226 votes were cast in Texas during the 2016 election.

— Madi Donham

Update Oct. 27, 4:45 p.m. – All calm in Caldwell County

Voting remains slow and calm in Caldwell County, Election Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf said.

According to the Texas Secretary of State election website, 9,553 people have voted in-person and by mail in Caldwell County as of Monday, October 26th.

Ohlendorf also predicts more than half of registered voters in the county to cast their ballots on Nov. 3.

Ohlendorf expects state election inspectors and poll watchers to observe voting sites on Nov. 3.  Under Texas law, poll watchers are appointed by candidates, political parties, and proponents and opponents of ballot measures. State inspectors are appointed by the secretary of state.

— Harrison Young and Mizelle May0

Update Oct. 24, 2:00 p.m. — Voters can check status of mail-in ballots online

Almost 58,000 people have voted by mail in Travis County. Those voters can track the status of their ballots at  VoteTravis.com. Voters with military and overseas ballots can also track their ballots at the Texas Secretary of State FPCA Ballot Tracker.

Residents need to make a clear plan for voting and for monitoring the status of mail-in ballots, said Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County Clerk. 

 “It is critical that we get the message to voters that they absolutely cannot wait until the last day or last hour,” DeBeauvoir said.

Screenshot of a possible outcome at VoteTravis.com once all requested information is entered:

—Sumaiya Malik, Benton Graham and Jillian Price

Update Oct. 26 6:00 p.m. — Pflugerville ISD Rock Gym busiest polling location in Travis County

The map above depicts all 37 Travis County early voting locations. Clicking the button on the top left of the map displays the color legend. The more votes cast at a location, the darker the pin. Clicking on a location displays the polling place’s name, address, total number of ballots cast there, average voters per day, percent of county votes cast at the polling location and busyness ranking. As of October 25, Pflugerville ISD Rock Gym has been the busiest voting location. The Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center in Austin’s St. John’s neighborhood has been the least busy.

— Ram Rodríguez

Update Oct. 21, 4:00 p.m. — Steady voting in Caldwell County

Voting continues to run smoothly in Lockhart.

Counting in-person and mail-in ballots, more than 4,000 people have voted in Caldwell County as of Tuesday Oct. 21. “I’m really, really amazed at the turnout,” Election Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf said.

In-person voters at the county’s two polling places can expect a 5-minute line in the morning and no delay the day goes on, Ohlendorf said. Mail-in drop-off ballot traffic has been steady, but there has been no wait.

The county enforces a 6-foot social distancing rule for those waiting in line, and election employees are required to wear masks. On Thursday, most voters were also wearing masks.

— Harrison Young

Update Oct. 20, 11 p.m. — First week of mail-in voting soars ahead of 2016

Analysis of Travis County totals for the first week of voting in 2020 vs. 2016 indicates a huge increase in mail-in voting but a similar cumulative number of votes cast.

According to data published by Texas Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs, 38,800 Travis County residents voted by mail during the first week, surpassing the entire 2016 election number. A record 97% of Travis County residents are registered to vote (854,577 people), besting 2016 when 92% of county residents were registered (725,041 people).  

The chart above examines the percentage of registered Travis County voters that submitted votes by mail this year and in 2016. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir is preparing for up to 12% of residents to vote by mail. Though the current cumulative percentage of mailed votes is still under 5%, the share of mailed votes this year was higher than in 2016 on every day but Day 6.

In the chart above, in-person voting and totals of mail-in and in-person votes are compared by percentage of registered voters across the first week of early voting for 2016 and 2020. For five of seven days, the share of in-person votes was higher in 2016. As a note, early voting began on a Tuesday this year while it opened on a Monday in 2016, which accounts for their lowest turnout falling on their respective Sundays — Day 6 in 2020, Day 7 in 2016.

The chart above examines the cumulative percentage of registered voters to vote in-person and the combined number of mailed-in and in-person votes cast over the week. Both years’ cumulative turnout hovered around the low 30s. However, in-person turnout was only .5% higher on average that year.

Two things to keep in mind: 

— Early voting is running 18 days this year compared to only 12 days in 2016.

— The lowest daily vote share in 2016 fell on the seventh day of early voting. It is possible that the 2020 cumulative turnout will fall behind 2016 in a few days before retaking the lead  as early voting continues.

— Ram Rodriguez

Update, October 20 2:35 p.m. — Voter turnout low in St. John’s neighborhood

The Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center in Northeast Austin was quiet today, and traffic at the polling place has been slow since voting started. 

The center is located in the heart of the St. John’s neighborhood, an ethnically diverse working-class area.

Of the 37 polling locations in the county, the recreation center has seen the lowest number of in-person and mail-in drop-off ballots — 3,098.  

On Tuesday most people entering the center parking lot were visiting the St. John’s Public Library, which shares a building with the voting center. 

—Madi Donham

Data visualization by Ram Rodríguez

Update Oct. 19, 2:30 p.m. — Polls efficient at Millennium Youth Complex 

Midday Monday voters breezed in and out of the the Millennium Youth Complex in East Austin.

“It was very quick and easy. I’m super impressed,” said Katie Tudor, a 26-year-old social worker who cast a ballot at the complex.

Her roommate had previously voted at the Millenium Youth Complex and told her how smoothly it went. Tudor used the Travis County Wait Time Map to see that the site had a zero to 20 minute wait, she said.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called the site one of Travis County’s five “mega voting centers,” due to its capacity for voters and ample parking. 

As of Sunday night, 4,711 people had voted at the complex.

— Benton Graham

Update Oct. 17  11 p.m. — Steady stream of voters at Austin Central Library

Austin Central Library saw a steady stream of voters and short wait times on Saturday afternoon. 

Ballot machines circled an empty event hall right inside the library entrance facing First Street. Masked Volunteers held the door open and greeted the voters. Several children and even a baby accompanied their parents. Volunteers gave voters finger gloves and hand sanitizer and“I voted” stickers to voters.

As of Saturday evening, more than 7,046 votes had been cast at the Library, and 924 voters cast their ballot on Saturday.

— Sumaiya Malik

Update Oct. 16, 3:50 p.m. — Voting lines remain short in Hays County

Voting wait times continue to be short in Hays County. 

Ballots from 20,914 early voters and 8,379 absentee voters — nearly 20% of registered voters in Hays County — had been cast as of mid-afternoon on Oct. 16.

There have been no  poll watcher sightings in Hays County, Hays County Election Administrator Jennifer Anderson said. Anderson anticipates the county will see poll watchers on Election Day, which is not uncommon, she added.

Lawful electioneering — campaigners publicly supporting their candidates at least 100 feet away from polling centers — has been consistent outside the Hays County Government Center. 

—Madi Donham

Update Oct. 15, 5:50 p.m. — Voting in Bastrop County holding steady

Early voting continues to be brisk in Bastrop County with a few voters arriving on Thursday at the county’s four polling locations before they opened at 8 a.m.  

Wait times have averaged around 10 minutes, said Sarah Strong, a Bastrop County elections administration assistant.

As of Thursday at 5 p.m., at least 7,350 of the more than 52,000 registered voters in the county have voted in-person, and more than 2,828 mail-in ballots have been submitted, Elections Administration Assistant Megan Welch said.

At this point during the 2016 presidential election, about 6,900 voters total had cast ballots, Strong added.

— Jillian Price

Update Oct. 15, 4:56  p.m. – Caldwell County polling places busy

Voters are still showing up in droves to the county’s two polling places — the Luling Civic Center and Scott Annex Building, both in Lockhart — Election Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf said.

“It’s been overwhelming, but it’s worth it,” she said. 

Aside from a minor issue involving one unreadable ballot, voting machines are functioning well, Ohlendorf said. As of Thursday afternoon, about 1,700 votes were cast during the last two days at the civic center and about 600votes at the Scott Annex building.

—Harrison Young

Update Oct. 15, 12:30 p.m. — Travis County sees strong turnout on first days of early voting

Travis County voters showed up in large numbers on the first two days of early voting. According to the Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, 74,040 people voted in person on Tuesday and Wednesday. An additional 23,043 voters submitted mail-in ballots. 

The total is a slight increase compared to the first two days of early voting in the 2016 presidential election, when 72,364 people cast ballots during the first two days of early voting.

Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant also noted that voter enthusiasm seems to be particularly high, as a record 97% of the county is registered to vote

— Benton Graham

Update Oct. 14, 2:30 p.m. — Hays County residents confused on poll opening times 

Lupita Lopez waits for the early voting doors to open at the Hays County Government Center on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. After thinking early voting started at 7 a.m., she stayed to be first in line when doors would open at 10 a.m. Madi Donham/Reporting Texas

Lupita Lopez showed up at 7 a.m. at the Hays County Government Center in San Marcos to vote with her eldery parents, but the polling place wouldn’t open until 10 a.m. for in-person voting.

“Voting rules and updates are iffy,” Lopez said.

Lopez set up a camping chair in front of the center to wait to vote. “That’s why I’m sitting here, to be the first in line and take care of my parents,” Lopez said. 

As other voters, most of whom believed the doors would open at 7 a.m., approached the building, Lopez told them voting would start at 10 a.m.

“Don’t forget to bring me doughnuts when you come back,” she said as voters returned to their cars.

Starting Oct. 17, the center will open for in-person voting at 7 a.m.

The only absentee ballot drop-off box in Hays County is also located at the government center, which opens at 8 a.m. for drop-off ballots. With only a few voters, drop-offs were quick on Wednesday morning.

—Madi Donham

Update Oct. 13, 9 p.m. — Turnout high in Williamson County

Voters fill out ballots at the Randalls on Gattis School Road in Round Rock on Oct. 13, 2020. Sumaiya Malik/Reporting Texas

On the first day of early voting in Williamson County, masked voters wrapped around Randall’s grocery store on Gattis School Road in Round Rock, where the wait time was upward of 45 minutes. Other polling locations, in Leander and Sun City, reported similar wait times.

 “It is going to be the largest turnout that this county has ever seen,” Williamson County Election Administrator Chris Davis said.  “We’re encouraging most people not to wait till Election Day — if they’re going to vote in person to vote during early voting.”  

The only mail-in ballot drop-off location in the county, near the Williamson County Adult Probation center, had no wait time. Voters strolled in spaced far apart, most wearing masks. 

 “Early voting will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except for Sunday where it will be 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” Davis said.

County officials say 31,234 people voted during the first day of early voting,

— Sumaiya Malik