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Travis County sees high turnout on first day of early voting—and sets new mail-in ballot application and registration records
(Bob Daemmrich/Austonia)

Ellen Chatterton of Austin studies the sample ballot as long lines of voters queue up to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in Texas. Travis County early voting polling place wait times can be found here.

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."

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.

Voter registration

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:

Here's where you can vote early in Travis County(Emma Freer/Austonia)


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