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Government/Politics

Bexar County Sees Mail-in Ballots More Than Double Compared To 2010

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Chris Eudaily | Texas Public Radio
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Early voting site

 

The first seven days of early voting have gone by, and 101,000 eligible Bexar County voters have cast their ballots in person or by mail. In simple numbers, that’s just about 5,000 more than the last midterm election in 2010, but when you sift through those figures, here’s the big surprise. In-person votes are about the same, but mail-in ballots are almost two-and-a-half times higher, going from 7,000 to 18,000 votes. You don’t need an ID to vote by mail, however, you do have to be over 65, or disabled, or out of the county during Election Day and early voting, or, in prison — this last, under certain circumstances.

Will Hailer is the Executive Director of the Texas Democratic Party, and he believes the increase has to do with the party’s outreach to voters, especially seniors. “This is the first time we’ve had a true statewide coordinated effort to make sure our seniors, those 65 and older, and people living with disabilities, are able to get vote-by-mail applications, to make it more accessible for them to be able to cast their vote,” he says.

He states this is not a push to get around Texas’ much-debated voter ID law, and adds that more African American and Hispanic voters are casting a ballot in this election.

The Republican Party, interestingly, also thinks it’s their reaching out to more people that has resulted in the dramatic increase in mail-in ballot numbers. Steve Munisteri is the chairman. He says they’ve doubled the outreach to Republican-leaning senior citizens. “Four years ago, we were talking about [the] tens of thousands that we’ve reached. Two years ago, it was a half million, this time, we’ve reached out to 1.2 million Republican seniors that we identified, so that’s the largest effort we’ve ever had,” says Munisteri.

Munisteri also believes that as far as both parties are concerned, the mail-in ballots are not necessarily new voters, but old voters using a different voting platform. One, perhaps, that is more convenient and not just expedient?

Just as a point of reference, the Texas Secretary of State’s office keeps a record of the 15 counties with the most registered voters — basically, all the major cities. Of these, so far, mail-in ballots have increased by 74,000 votes, as compared to the same early voting period in 2010.

To vote early, voters first have to make a request to vote by mail; the cut off date for that was last Friday. They then have until Election Day to mail it in.