35,890 voters cast ballots in person on Travis County's first day of early voting

A photo of voters in line
Dozens of Travis County residents wait in line to vote at the Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North Austin on Oct. 13, the first day of early voting. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Dozens of Travis County residents wait in line to vote at the Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North Austin on Oct. 13, the first day of early voting. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Update: 10:10 p.m., Oct. 13

In Travis County, 35,890 residents voted in person on Oct. 13, the first day of early voting for the November 2020 election. This turnout falls just shy of the first day of early voting in 2016, when 35,999 voters showed up to the polls.

However, the 22,577 mail-in ballots received Oct. 13 this year far outnumber those received on the corresponding date in 2016, when just 11,020 had been received. This year's drive-thru hand delivery option for ballot-by-mail voters new, and may account in part for this increase.

In total, 58,467 Travis County residents have voted so far, accounting for 6.84% of registered voters. At this point in 2016, 47,019 voters had cast ballots, which was 6.45% of registered voters at that time. A higher percentage of eligible voters are registered now—97% compared to just over 90% in 2016.

The in-person voting figures from both 2020 and 2016 include limited ballots cast by individuals who have recently moved from a different county in Texas and are limited to voting in state and federal races.

More information about daily voter turnout is available on the county clerk's website.

Original post: 2:15 p.m., Oct. 13

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir announced in a Twitter post that 14,000 people had cast votes by noon on Travis County's first day of early voting Oct. 13. That number had swelled from the roughly 6,000 voters DeBeauvoir confirmed to county commissioners at a meeting earlier in the day shortly before 10 a.m.

"We had people waiting overnight to get inside the polling place at 7 a.m. There’s lines almost everywhere, but they were quickly processed, and now it’s more of a steady flow of voters," DeBeauvoir told commissioners.

Information about polling locations and wait times is available at www.votetravis.org. As of 1:30 p.m., 27 of Travis County's 37 early-voting locations were reporting wait times of more than 20 minutes on the website.

County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant announced Oct. 12 after the deadline for Texans to register to vote for the upcoming election that 97% of eligible Travis County voters were registered, a local record. Those registered voters have until Oct. 30 to vote early. They may also vote on Election Day on Nov. 3, when 178 election centers will be available.

Voters who qualify to vote by mail—including those who are over the age 65, have a disability or expect to be out of the county during the in-person voting window—have until Oct. 23 to request a ballot, but DeBeauvoir cautioned against waiting until the last minute to do so.

“I do not suggest that people wait until Oct. 23 to ask for a ballot. You are pretty much guaranteed that you will not make it through the postal system. If you have to ask for one that late, plan to use hand delivery,” she said.

Hand delivery of mail-in ballots is available at the clerk's business office at 5501 Airport Blvd., Austin. Initially, Travis County offered hand delivery of mail-in ballots at several locations downtown, but Gov. Greg Abbott's order limiting hand delivery to a single location in all Texas counties caused those locations to shut down for the time being despite challenges to Abbott's order. There are 16 drive-thru bays positioned at the Airport hand-delivery location, according to DeBeauvoir, and cars are able to move through the drive-thru ballot delivery process in around two minutes.

So far, Travis County has received 78,000 ballot-by-mail requests, 86% of which have come from voters over the age of 65, DeBeauvoir said. Around 75,000 of those requested ballots have been distributed, and 14,400 have been returned, including around 6,000 that have been returned by hand delivery.

This is a developing story. Updated early-voting numbers will be shared as they become available.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.