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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
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:
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- 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 ›
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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