Today, Oct. 30, is the last day of early voting in Texas, and Dallas County is on pace to surpass all votes cast in the 2016 election.
High fives for being an involved electorate.
In the 2016 election, 758,973 ballots were cast from the first day of early voting through Election Day. As of Oct. 29, 744,799 Dallas County voters have either submitted their mail-in ballot or shown up at early voting locations.
Throughout the state, more than 9 million voters have cast ballots; 8,969,226 voted in the 2016 general election. Harris County, which hosted eight different 24-hour polling places last night, has already surpassed its total voting in 2016. Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, and Denton Counties have also already passed the 2016 mark. El Paso and Dallas should today.
In the past five general elections, 42% of votes were cast early, but with the pandemic and an extra week of early voting, it’s anyone’s guess how many more voters will turn out on Election Day, Nov. 3.
The Dallas County Elections Department still has a large task ahead making sure every vote is counted. It called an emergency meeting Friday to request the approval of an additional grant from The Center for Tech and Civil Life, a nonprofit that provides funds to election officials along with tools and training.
Since the pandemic, the center has provided grants to election officials around the country to ensure a safe voting experience.
Toni Pippins-Poole, Dallas County’s election administrator, is on the center's board, and her department has already received a $15 million grant to procure extra equipment and space, to provide workers hazard pay and to create a communications plan.
Now, the department has applied to the center for a second COVID-19 response grant in the amount of $10 million to purchase and prepare an extra facility at 1460 Round Table Drive. In a memorandum, Assistant Elections Administrator Robert Heard explained the department does not have enough space for training poll workers quickly and efficiently in the pandemic environment.
“[The elections office] does not have enough administrative space to accommodate all the additional staff and the greater needs of our ballot by mail and central counting station management areas,” the memo explains. The county also needs additional space to store and stage additional supplies, equipment and personal protective equipment. Any remaining money from the first grant will be reallocated for the new property, which is adjacent to their current facility.
Earlier in the week, the department put out an all-call for workers to help process mail-in ballot applications. By the end of the day, the county reported they were sufficiently staffed, but it’s an indication that the department is struggling to keep up with the historic turnout under pandemic conditions.
For example, Christen Romero and his wife are both registered voters in Dallas County and mailed their applications for absentee mail-in ballots on Oct. 13 but haven’t received them. Romero has contacted the department repeatedly and has been told they have no record of their applications.
“To date, we have attempted to resolve this issue with the Dallas County elections office 6 different times,” Romero wrote in an email. He’s called four times; he’s also reached out to a nonpartisan advocacy group and has emailed the elections department with no response. Because of his work schedule out of state, he’s unable to make it to Dallas County to vote.
There are more than 463 polling places for Election Day, opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All Dallas County registered voters can vote at any of those locations. Early voting ends at 7 p.m. today.
Dallas County Commission Dr. Elba Garcia says anyone who still has their mail-in ballot should avoid dropping it in the mail.
“Vote in person by Friday at 7 p.m. at any of the 61 early voting locations in Dallas County. Take your mail ballot with you and surrender it to the election judge or clerks when you sign in to vote,” Dr. Garcia wrote to the Observer.
Voters can also take their mail ballot in-person to the dropbox at the elections department at 1520 Round Table Drive, where there is a drive-through service. Be sure to take a photo ID with you when you drop off your ballot, Dr. Garcia says. She also encourages voters to track their ballots using www.txballot.org.
The U.S. Postal Service said in a statement to the Observer that is there are no delivery delays, specifically in regard to the election:
“We are working closely with the Texas Secretary of State and the Dallas County elections office. Dallas County postal management is reporting that all mail is current with no delays in processing or delivering mail-in ballots to the elections office daily.”
According to the state of Texas, for a ballot to be counted it must be received by 5 p.m. on the next business day after Election Day with a postmark of 7 p.m. Nov. 3 or before if the ballot is mailed from inside the U.S. Ballots from overseas must be received by the fifth day after Election Day and bear a postmark of 7 p.m. on Election Day or before. Military members who use a federal postcard application must return their ballots by the sixth day after the election, and no postmark is necessary.
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