Travis County sees high turnout on first day of early voting—and sets new mail-in ballot application and registration records
Travis County is poised to break records this election.
As of 9:52 a.m. on Tuesday, the first day of early voting, more than 6,000 people had cast their ballot in person, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told county commissioners. By noon, that number had more than doubled—to 14,000—according to a follow-up tweet.
"That's good?" Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe asked. "Yes," DeBeauvoir responded. "Very good."
Austin, you showed up this morning! Early voting continues through October 30th. Think of November 3rd as the last… https://t.co/0HHd4xUvaW— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask.) 1602608787.0
Nearly 36,000 people voted in-person on the first day of early voting ahead of the last presidential election.
The county has 37 early voting locations. Some residents arrived early.
"We had people waiting overnight to get inside the polling place at 7 a.m.," DeBeauvoir said. "There are lines almost everywhere."
Although she said they were quickly processed, most polling locations were posting a wait time of more than 20 minutes around midday. Voters can find wait time estimates for local polling places here.
(Travis County Clerk)
The early voting period runs through Oct. 30. You can find a list of polling locations, opening hours and races to watch here.
Safety at the polls
In addition to COVID-era precautions, which include "finger cots" and multiple cleanings throughout the day, DeBeauvoir said her office is working with local law enforcement agencies to ensure polling places are safe and secure for voters.
"We know that there's a lot of threats out there on social media, especially about marauding brands of maskless militias that are going to take over the polling places," she told commissioners.
But DeBeauvoir said she is unconcerned, given the oversight of election judges and the requirements of poll watchers, who are credentialed and limited to two at each polling place.
"There's no such thing as a stealth-appointed poll watcher," she said in response to a question about Donald Trump Jr., who called on "every able-bodied man (and) woman to join Army for Trump's election security operation" in a recent political advertisement.
Voting by mail
Despite myriad lawsuits concerning who qualifies to vote by mail in Texas and where residents are allowed to drop off mail-in ballots, DeBeauvoir told commissioners that her office has received a record-setting 78,000 mail-in ballot applications for the Nov. 3 election and expects around 100,000 total by the Oct. 29 deadline.
The vast majority of applicants—86%—are residents over 65 years of age, which is one of the eligibility criteria.
Around 75,000 applicants have been sent their mail-in ballots, and more than 13,000 have returned them, DeBeauvoir said.
In comparison, her office sent out only 27,000 mail-in ballots ahead of the 2016 general election.
In other record-setting news, more than 850,000 Travis County residents—of 97% of eligible voters—registered by the state's Oct. 5 deadline, according to the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant.
"These numbers exceed even my expectations," Elfant said in a press release issued Tuesday.
However, Elfant added that it is typical that the number of people who vote is "far less" than the number of people registered to do so.
For example, in the November 2016 election, just under two-thirds of registered voters in Travis County actually cast their ballots, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office.
"We are all hoping that this election is different and we not only have a record number of registrations but a record number of voters casting ballots," he said in the statement.
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Someday, electric vehicles could go distances fit for road trips across Texas.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, who have previously made strides in the lithium-ion battery industry, have developed a new electrode for such batteries that could draw greater power and allow faster charging.
So far, the research has looked at just a single type of battery electrode and is in its early stages. But it offers exciting potential as some buyers consider driving range an important factor when making the switch to an EV or picking one.
Tesla’s Model Y being produced out of Giga Texas, for example, offers an estimated 330-mile range, which is lower than what many have become accustomed to in gas-powered vehicles.
So UT professor Guihua Yu, along with other researchers, had their findings on battery electrodes published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The unprecedented growth of electric vehicles during the past decade has played an indispensable role in paving the way for a carbon-neutral future,” the researchers write.
That’s why it’s key to address a hitch with next-generation batteries, where restacking material can cause “significant bottlenecks” in charge transport, Yu says. Consequently, it can be difficult to achieve high energy and fast charging.
To tackle the sluggish reactions of electrodes, the team used thin two-dimensional materials as the building blocks and stacked them to create thickness. Then, they used a magnetic field to manipulate their orientations and put the materials in vertical alignment. In doing so, researchers essentially made a fast lane for ions to travel through the electrode.
They compared their results to a commercial electrode and a horizontally arranged one for experimental control purposes. In that comparison, they recharged the vertical thick electrode to 50% energy level in 30 minutes. The horizontal electrode took 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Zhengyu Ju, a graduate student in Yu’s research group who is leading this project, said the team’s electrode shows superior electrochemical performance.
In part, that’s “thanks to the unique architecture we designed,” Ju said. It ultimately allowed for high mechanical strength, high electrical conductivity and facilitated lithium-ion transport.
Going forward, the team aims to generalize their methodology of vertically organized electrode layers to apply it to different types of electrodes using other materials. They imagine if this technique becomes more widely adopted in industry, it may create future fast-charging, high-energy batteries to power EVs.
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