Travis County clerk’s office: Super Tuesday off to 'rocky start’ due to coronavirus fears; more than 150,000 voters expected to come to polls on election day

Voters file into the polling place at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin on the morning of March 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Voters file into the polling place at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin on the morning of March 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Voters file into the polling place at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin on the morning of March 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Travis County clerk’s office said many election judges and poll workers around the county were no-shows on the morning of election day.

“Super Tuesday got off to a rocky start due to multiple no-shows of many election judges and poll workers. To the extent that the Elections Office was given a reason, it seems people were fearful of the Coronavirus,” the clerk’s office said in a written statement.

According to the statement, staff from the clerk’s office are filling in “as emergency recruits.”

“Most locations are up and running now and we’re continuing to work on resolutions to get everywhere fully staffed,” the statement reads.

Officials from Austin Public Health said on Feb. 28 the office has worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services to construct its coronavirus plan since January.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in a statement that respiratory diseases such as the novel coronavirus spread through close personal contact and reassured residents their risk of catching an infection will not change as long as they follow certain practices.

"Our public health professionals want to reassure you that your time participating or assisting others as they cast their ballots is valued and will not change your risk of disease as long as you follow the proper hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes," Eckhardt said in the statement.

After in-person early voting turnout in Travis County spiked to more than 120,000 in this year’s primary election, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told Community Impact Newspaper residents can expect the number of votes on election day to surpass that number.

“That’s not exactly good news,” DeBeauvoir said at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin as polls opened. “Because what we really need is for there to be more people—perhaps 60%—early voting to take some of the pressure on election day. We’re going to see another 150,000 people come through election day today.”

Polls opened at 7 a.m. on the morning of March 3 and remain open across the county until 7 p.m. Travis County voters are free to go to any polling location. DeBeauvoir urged voters to go out as early as possible and to check the wait time map on the clerk's website to find less busy vote centers.

“There are vote centers out there that go unused, because most people just think about the grocery stores. As much as we love them, there are places where you don’t have to put yourself in a long line, and sometimes the grocery store lines are two to three hours,” DeBeauvoir said.

While 5 p.m. through the evening is the busiest time of the day, DeBeauvoir said residents should budget in some extra time if they plan to vote on their lunch break as well. She expects some voters to still be in line at the busiest polling places as late as 10 or 11 p.m., which means those centers will get a late start tallying votes and submitting results.

“Everybody sort of sits on tenterhooks waiting for those folks to finish. If we can find a way to get them to other locations so that we have more results and earlier, everybody likes that,”DeBeauvoir said.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at [email protected]


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