Despite long lines and technical issues, Central Texas turns in record first day of early voting

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jay Jones of south Austin had something to prove to his two daughters.
Even after waiting more than three hours on the first day of early voting, Jones would make his voice heard.

“It’s as important as it gets,” Jones told KXAN. “I like football, baseball, American pie, but voting is what makes America, America.”

Jones was among tens of thousands of voters in Central Texas who, despite long lines and technical issues at several polling locations, cast a ballot in person on Tuesday, the first day of early voting in Texas.

In Williamson County, 22,707 people voted on Tuesday, a new record for the first day of early voting which makes up about 6% of all registered voters.

In Travis County, 35,873 people voted early in person Tuesday, compared to 33,664 who voted on the first day of early voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Hays County reported 6,867 in-person voters on Tuesday, and 14,014 ballots casted total including vote-by-mail. In 2016, 4,726 ballots were cast in person on the first day of early voting.

In Travis County, one location opened late, because an election official couldn’t find the ballots. Another location experienced delays caused by a ballot box scanner malfunctioning. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said both issues can be chalked up to the challenges of virtual training.

“(Poll workers are not) green anymore,” DeBeauvoir said. “They’re experienced workers, and I think they will be over their jitters for tomorrow.”

An absentee voter in Austin reported Tuesday afternoon that several mail-in ballots were leaking from a mailbox at the South Congress post office in plain view.

The United States Postal Service told KXAN that a package jammed in the mailbox chute caused the issue, and the problem has been resolved.

“I was really surprised to see those ballots leaking out of the box,” said Jane Hammons. “I mean, it’s just awful.”

In Caldwell County, misspelled names and incorrect boundaries for a special election forced the county to reprint more than 600 absentee ballots.

Williamson County election officials battled technical issues with ballot card printers and a power outage at the Georgetown Randall’s early voting location.

“Those were really the two big hiccups that we dealt with this afternoon,” said Chris Davis, the Williamson County elections administrator. “We think that we’ve overcome both of those.”

If the first day of early voting is any indication, even with some challenges, political experts say talk of a historic turnout is becoming a reality.

“People came out to vote on the first day, in all likelihood, knowing that there would be lines and crows because they are engaged and enthusiastic,” said Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Early voting in Texas continues through Oct. 30.

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