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.
More on early voting:
- Travis County tells some vote-by mail applicants to go to the polls ... ›
- Early voting period for November election extended - austonia ›
- Travis County streamlines text-based voter registration amid pandemic ›
- Where to vote early in Travis County in the 2020 election - austonia ›
- Travis County sees near-record turnout on first day of early voting - austonia ›
- Travis County's early voting polling places ranked by turnout - austonia ›
- 43% of registered voters have cast their ballots in Travis County - austonia ›
- Travis County, Texas surpass 2016 turnout during early voting - austonia ›
- Here's where you can vote on Election Day in Travis County - austonia ›
For years Austin has been one of the top 5 places to live in the U.S., according to an annual ranking from U.S. News and World Report. But this year, Austin dropped out of the top 10.
The publication ranked Austin at No. 13, down from No. 5 last year, No. 3 in 2020 and No. 1 in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Cities ranking in the top this year were No. 1 Huntsville, Alabama, No. 2 Colorado Springs and No. 3 Green Bay, Wisconsin.
So why did it rank lower this year?
The hot housing market is part of the reason. The report states "Austin offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income."
Still, Austin was the highest-ranked Texas city on the list. Adding to its desirability are its live music capital roots and the growing tech scene. The next Texas area on the list was Dallas-Fort Worth coming in at No. 32.
U.S. News says it analyzed 150 metro areas in the U.S. to make the list based on the quality of life, the job market, the value of living there and people's desire to live there.
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- Austin drops in WalletHub's 2021 Happiest Places to Live study ... ›
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- Top 5 in-demand neighborhoods in the Austin metro - austonia ›
Austin parents and grocery store shelves are feeling the effects of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Caused mostly by a February recall due to contamination issues, followed by the Abbott Nutrition factory closure in Michigan, the shortage has left Austin shelves barren. However, earlier this week, U.S. officials announced a plan with the facility to restart production.
In the meantime, local parents in crisis have turned toward the Mother’s Milk Bank to keep their babies fed.
HEB on East 7th has been picked clean of formula and is limiting purchases. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The milk bank—which takes donations from lactating mothers and dispenses milk to babies in the NICU—has been helping feed upwards of 30 families in need as the formula supply tightens.
According to the bank’s executive director Kim Updegrove, Mother’s Milk Bank has seen an uptick in calls from parents with healthy babies in need of help since the shortage began.
“We aren't used to hearing from families with healthy infants,” Updegrove said. “They're typically very upset, angry, frustrated, sobbing—it's scary to not be able to feed your infants. So in the past few weeks, those calls have been significantly increasing.”
Mothers are only able to donate if they are within a year postpartum, so Updegrove said they are constantly bringing on and retiring donors. While donors had been on a 30% decline leftover from 2021 when the shortage began, Updegrove said the shortage has led to mass community interest and more than 90 prospective donors in just the past few days.
“We and other milk banks are experiencing significant interest from the community—becoming milk donors and helping to turn around this crisis,” Updegrove said. “Every infant needs to be fed, every one of us can relate to that need, and we need to make sure as a community that it happens.”
Whole Foods downtown was also cleaned out of typical formula. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
While you may still be able to find formula at places like Whole Foods—which currently has goat milk, soy and plant-based formula in stock—Updegrove said it might not be what a baby needs.
Updegrove said it is best to buy types that say “infant formula,” as they are FDA approved and will provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Plant-based, homemade, non-cow's milk or diluting formula may not provide the same nutritional value.
As the community navigates the shortage, Updegrove said the most important way to help out is to not panic buy or stockpile.
“This is a crisis for families,” Updegrove said. “This is the time for the community to gather together and figure out what everyone can do to help families with young infants.”