By Marissa Greene
During this time of year not only will you see Halloween decorations, pumpkin carvings, and perhaps the Sunday football game; but also lines of people outside of polling locations six feet apart, with a face mask, and a ballot card. This election year, registered voters across the country are picking candidates they wish to represent the United States and the citizens within it.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin-Travis County has already surpassed the 477,588 votes cast early and on election day for the 2016 election. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvior said.
As of Thursday 521,002, Austin voters have already cast their ballot. This is more than half of the percentage of registered voters in the county. That number is continuing to rise as we get closer to Election Day.
“It gives citizens a voice to elect people who represent their values and their goals for their community,” Alicia Del Rio, Elections and Government Relations Manager of Austin Community College said.
In light of the recent presidential debates and the candidate’s websites, U.S. citizens have been able to view President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s stances on topics such as COVID-19, affordable healthcare, immigration, climate change, racial injustice, and much more.
With only a few days remaining for eligible voters to head to the polls or vote by mail, it is important for both new and returning voters to know how this election might be different to protect the health and safety of citizens.
Those who are 65 years or older, sick or disabled, will be absent from the county during early voting and Election Day, are confined in jail, but otherwise eligible to vote can submit a mail-in ballot and avoid large crowds. For voters who don’t qualify for mail-in ballots, polling locations have gotten creative this year to follow social distancing protocols.
“In Harris County, they are doing drive-in voting so you can vote in your vehicle and more people are taking advantage of curbside voting…the main thing is that we got to keep our people safe,” Del Rio said.
In addition to these preventative measures, both Williamson and Travis counties are utilizing a new voting system called an ExpressVote Ballot Marketing Device (BMD) that has touchscreen technology that allows voters to verify their selections before it prints out the paper ballot. People are also able to use websites that show how busy each polling station is and their wait times.
Although the U.S Presidential election may be the most talked-about, citizens are also voting for the U.S. Senator, House of Representatives, Texas Supreme Court, State Senators, State Representatives, and other figures that affect our local government.
Federal elections occur every two years and every member of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection in any given election year, according to whitehouse.gov.
During local elections, Austin citizens are able to vote for propositions, city council members, and even representatives for their school districts.
“To me, the local politicians, local elections, the council members, county officials, and independent school districts, touch our lives more than the federal [government],” Del Rio said.
For those who have yet to vote, Del Rio mentions utilizing non-partisan sources to avoid misinformation and understand ones right before heading to the polling stations.
“Look at it with a grain of salt. If it’s pretty far-fetched you might do further research,” Del Rio said.
For more information about this year’s candidates, voters’ rights, and more, resources are listed below.