Runoff election brings voters despite COVID-19 fears

The main challenge for many of those voting in Tuesday’s runoff election was avoiding the heat.

There were reports at a few locations that COVID-19 social distancing rules created some long lines. However, for the most part, access was not a problem, which was a big relief for Gary Kendrick who usually votes early.  

“We had some issues, some family issues that kept us from doing that otherwise, we would have, we always try to early vote but this year it just didn’t work,” said Kendrick.

The runoff election Tuesday was pushed back from May to July because of COVID-19 and the governor also extended the early voting period from one week to two. That, along with a hot battle for the Democratic Party nomination in the U.S. Senate race, generated big numbers, even in Williamson County, where the November ballot for Republicans is already set.


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“We’ve had record-breaking turn out for a one-party runoff. Maybe you can attribute it that to the doubling of the length of time for early voting, but it’s been huge,” said Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis.

Statewide, almost 200,000 Democrats voted early by mail, with another 453,000 in person. While the total amount of 650,000 early votes represents only four percent of all registered Democrats in Texas, it’s a big number for any runoff, according to political analyst Brian Smith, especially during a pandemic.

“So what we may see today is that turn out isn’t going to be much higher today, because it’s all been taken away by early voting and mail voting,” said Smith.

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Smith says a shorter summer campaign season of only three months could also help the Democrats carry momentum into the fall.

Susan Kendrick noted how the tight Senate race brought her out and wants the excitement to be sustained into November. “I sure hope so, I’m going to do my part,” she said.

Statewide, fewer Republicans voted early in the runoff battles they had, with 100,000 by mail, and just over 300,000 in person. Williamson County had no runoff candidates, and zero GOP votes, which had Republicans there looking to the fall.

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“Republicans, I think in Texas, should always be worried because if they are not worried that’s how they lose the state, one thing they’ve been always good at is making sure they don’t take things for granted,” said Smith.

For Republican Leslie Toon, the message of the runoff is simple: “Come out November, everybody get out and vote, we need you.”