HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The Rio Grande Valley is on track to surpass its early voting turnout from the 2016 election.
Officials in both Hidalgo and Cameron county say the first week of early voting has seen a massive turnout, and with the governor extending this period by six days, they are confident the 2016 figures will be exceeded.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza. “It’s very high above what we had at this point a couple years back.”
“Numbers are proof there is an increase in voters heading to polls and casting their ballot,” Hilda Salinas, assistant director of the Hidalgo County Elections Department said.
In Hidalgo County, more than 70,000 of the nearly 390,000 registered voters have cast their ballots.
With more than 30,000 voters so far, Garza believes they will hit a major milestone this year.
“The 50% turnout mark would put us exactly at 109,000 voters,” he said. “We’re really excited. We think we’re going to exceed that this election based on what we’re seeing at the polls”
UTRGV Political Science Associate Professor Dr. Natasha Altema-McKneely says there could be several explanations for the increase in civic engagement — especially in younger generations.
“Millennials are very focused on various issues — whether it be the response to the pandemic, access to healthcare, the economy, the state of race relations, racial justice or other issues of social justice,” she said. “I think those various issues are motivating the youth to the polls.”
While she is observing an increased interest in voting among this population, she notes older generations historically turn out to the polls at higher rates.
“I am cautious as to what that might mean going into election day, and what the turnout among the young will look like at the end of all this compared to previous presidential elections,” she said.
Early voting continues until the end of October. For a smoother process, Garza and Salinas encourage checking out sample ballots online beforehand.