EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the presidential race no doubt is fueling interest in early voting in the state but urged residents to not neglect local races.
“We are glad to see a large voter turnout. Obviously, there’s great interest in the presidential election,” the governor said this week in El Paso. “I do want to emphasize […] if a person goes to vote for president, they have to continue down the ballot if their vote is to count on all these other races.”
As of the end of Thursday, more than 2.6 million Texans, or 15.51% of those registered to vote, had cast ballots of mailed in early votes, according to the state Secretary of State’s web page.
But the chance of some of the less-prominent local races being overlooked is greater in this election, according to experts, because straight-party voting is no longer an option. In the past, if a voter didn’t know all the candidates, he or she could vote for all candidates from one party. According to the Texas Tribune, 64% of those who cast ballots in the state’s 10 largest counties in 2016 chose that option.
But Abbott in 2017 signed into law a bill doing away with that. At the time, he and other bill supporters said removing the option would force voters to make informed decisions about each race and candidates.
The large turnout is taking place despite a COVID-19 pandemic that refuses to go away and is spiking in places in the state like El Paso. The Far West Texas city and county have recorded more than 1,500 new cases in the past two days alone.
Abbott said polling places are taking necessary precautions and that the state expanded the early voting period. Voters “are being provided additional days of early voting so that people will be able to cast a vote in a less congested setting, so they will be safe from contracting COVID-19,” he said.
AP: pandemic, early voting transforming 2020 election
More than 17 million Americans have already cast ballots in the 2020 election, a record-shattering avalanche of early votes driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has transformed the way the nation votes, the Associated Press reported.
The total represents 12% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. Americans’ rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908, the AP reported.