Pandemic taking a toll on voter registration in RGV

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Voter registration in Texas is down almost 25% from the 2016 election according to the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research. 

Texas is one of the states in which you cannot register to vote online, and while the pandemic has prohibited outreach, Cameron County is expecting to register another 1,000 residents ahead of the Oct. 5 deadline. 

“But people are still registering,” said Remi Garza, Cameron County elections administrator. “We registered about 2,000 people since the July primary runoff.” 

With an estimated population of 260,000 eligible voters, about 85% are registered. Meanwhile, Hidalgo County, with an estimated adult population of nearly 570,000 has about 68% registered. 

“We would love to get it 100% registration,” said Garza. “We had a goal of 220,000 this year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 interfered with those projects we planned to put in place.” 

The county is offering registration assistance at census events and will soon target high schools. Forms are also available at libraries, city halls and other public service locations. 

“You can stop by our office,” he said. “We’re more than happy to help you fill out the application here, but please remember to wear a mask.” 

Although door-to-door registrations are not happening this year, the local nonprofit Texas Rising is still working to register voters in ways that they can. 

“Basically, what we do is similar to what we used to do before, where we would ask professors if we could zoom into their classes, go over the link, let them know what the process is going to look like, and then we also started distributing the link through social media,” said Ofelia Alonso, Texas Rising Regional Field Coordinator.

The organization targets 18 to 30 year olds, and has registered 5,000 people since March.  

“Our program would have registered like 10,000 or 20,000 people to vote, so it is a huge cut,” she said. “But it’s worth it to make sure people are safe, and if anything, this tells us the state of Texas is not equipped to handle something like this.” 

A recent ruling requires Texas to implement a system that would allow residents to register to vote online by Sep. 23, but the decision could be appealed. 

Registration does require a physical signature. Click here to download a form, which you can print, fill out and mail in.  

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