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First day of early voting draws nearly 3,500 to Brazos County polling places

First day of early voting draws nearly 3,500 to Brazos County polling places

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About 3,500 Brazos County residents got in line to cast their ballots Tuesday, the first day of early voting in the county and in Texas, waiting anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours.

Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock said Tuesday evening that 3,478 voters had cast ballots in person at one of five county voting centers by the end of the day. The vast majority of county residents wore masks and maintained physical distance from their neighbors while in line, Hancock said.

“Unbelievably, the lines have been shortest at the MSC,” Hancock said of the location on the Texas A&M campus. Several A&M students in line at various locations told The Eagle that they chose an off-campus location to avoid what they thought would be long lines at the Memorial Student Center. Wait times at the MSC averaged at about 10 minutes on Tuesday, according to the University Center & Special Events Twitter account.

“Historically, the first two days and the last two days of early voting are the heaviest, so pick a day later this week or early next week and the lines should be better,” Hancock said. “Now, that’s historically, and this election has been anything but normal.”

In 2016, 3,232 people visited one of five polling places in the county on early voting’s first day. Vote-by-mail was used much less in 2016 than so far in 2020, with more than 6,500 ballots mailed out at this point, according to Hancock.

The longest lines and wait times in the county appeared to be at Galilee Baptist Church in Bryan, about a mile northwest of the Brazos County Administration Building.

Hancock and voters at Galilee attributed the long wait time there to the presence of only four voting machines. Hancock said that one more machine would be installed there by 8 a.m. today, and that five machines would be the most that could fit inside the church due to COVID-19-related distancing guidelines.

“We’ve had plenty of people say that that doesn’t make any sense — ‘You’re expecting a lot of people, so why not put a lot of machines?’ — and we can, but we can’t social distance, and that’s part of our emergency action plan to keep people safe as they vote,” Hancock said.

Emma Kate Wimberly, a 21-year-old senior at Texas A&M, got in line at Galilee Baptist Church at 9:30 a.m. and cast her ballot right at noon. After she voted, Wimberly described the poll workers as “very efficient” and noted that there were several more machines when she voted March 3 at the MSC.

“While the wait time was less than optimal, especially as a busy college student, I know how important voting is, and I was willing to sacrifice a few hours of my week to make sure my voice was heard,” Wimberly said.

In the afternoon, two voters from different generations waited in line next to each other at Galilee for about two hours. Medical record-keeper Linda Davis and A&M student Ashlen LaCanne said they watched as several people in front of them left the line because of the long wait. The church and other volunteers provided water bottles and seats for people as they waited. LaCanne and Davis said they talked about college and the COVID-19 pandemic to pass the time.

Davis and LaCanne said they wanted to vote Tuesday to ensure their ballots were cast now in case lines got longer throughout early voting.

“I’m here because I need to vote. This is important to vote this year,” Davis said.

“I came here to vote because I thought it would be crazier there on campus than here — but then the line’s long here,” LaCanne said. “It’s encouraging that there are so many college students coming out here to vote.”

Precinct 2 Constable Donald Lampo said that people were lined up outside the County Administration Building at 7 a.m. Wayne Dicky, Republican candidate for county sheriff, and Bryan City Council hopeful Bobby Gutierrez arrived at the admin building before 8 a.m. to greet voters from a distance and said they were impressed at the number of people waiting to vote.

Among other people vying for elected office, Jane Sherman and Russ Ford — Democratic and Republican candidates, respectively, for Precinct 2 Commissioner — also appeared at county polling places to engage with voters throughout the day Tuesday. 

Hancock said more than 2,500 people registered in the last few days leading up to the Oct. 5 registration deadline, pushing the county’s overall voter registration total to 122,679 people. Four years ago, 68,448 of 106,821 registered voters cast ballots in Brazos County. For the March 3 primary elections earlier this year, 32,122 of 116,753 registered voters in Brazos County cast ballots.

Early voting is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Saturday and again Oct. 19-23. Polls will be open for 12 hours — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — for the last week of early voting, Oct. 26 through Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and any person in line by 7 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot at one of the 25 Election Day voting locations.

Other early voting locations include the College Station Utilities Meeting & Training Facility and Arena Hall in Bryan.

To learn more, visit BrazosVotes.org.

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