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Bexar County early voting turnout trailing last midterms contest and 2020 presidential election

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The Bexar County Elections Office reported on Tuesday that nearly 218,000 voters had cast ballots early for the Nov. 8 election.

That's just short of one out of five of the county's 1.2 million registered voters. Election officials said they would not be surprised if at least 700,000 voters participated in the election through early voting, mail-in ballots, and on election day itself.

But so far, those early voting numbers are still lagging behind those of the last midterm election and the presidential election, casting some doubt on exactly how intense voter emotions may be over issues such as abortion, gun control, and immigration.

In late October, Bexar County Nelson Wolff met a group of college students pushing for a resolution to declare the county an abortion sanctuary. He said the real solution for change was for young people to turn out to vote for pro-choice candidates this November. He told them that a strong turnout among those voters has not yet materialized.

There are 51 early voting locations open through Friday, Nov. 4 at local city halls, colleges and universities, schools, community centers, libraries, and churches.

There will be 302 polling sites open on election day after the county was successfully sued twice by voting rights advocates to greatly increase the number of election day sites. County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen was unable to convince a majority of county commissioners or the courts that more than 250 (and later that more than 270) sites would be enough because voters could access any of them on election day to vote.

Commissioners Tommy Calvert, Rebeca Clay-Flores, and Justin Rodriguez all pushed for more voter locations in underserved areas on the East, West, and South Sides of the county. Calvert said the farther a voter has to travel on election day to find a polling spot increases the chances of them not voting at all. He said voter access and democracy itself should be placed above cost-savings by trimming underperforming voting locations as suggested by Callanen.

Callanen has administered hundreds of local, state, and national elections since taking office in 2005, including presidential elections.

Her office — like other county election offices — has been subjected to threats and harassment as voter passions run high over false allegations of a stolen president election in 2020. Overzealous poll observers are one major concern in the elections ahead, including the next presidential election in November 2024.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian