Scott Ball / Rivard Report
After one day of Fiesta hiatus, early voting returned with its strongest number yet: On Saturday, 8,330 residents of Bexar County turned up to cast their ballots in the May 6 general and bond election.
With only two days of early voting to go, the Bexar County Elections Department has recorded a total of 38,307 votes so far.
Totals from the first day of early voting marked a 29.2% increase compared to the first day of early voting in the 2015 municipal election. Monday’s strong start (6,968 votes in Bexar County and 33 in Fair Oaks) carried on to Tuesday (7,420 votes), then took a slight dip Wednesday (7,344 votes), saw an uptick Thursday (8,222 votes), and culminated in its highest turnout Saturday (8,330 votes).
Early voting continues through Tuesday, May 2. During early voting, citizens can vote at any polling site. On election day, May 6, voters must cast their ballots within their assigned precincts. For a list of early voting locations, click here. For a map, click here.
“We had 5,419 [people vote during] the [first day of the] last [municipal election],” Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said Monday. “So this exceeded it.”
San Antonio voters will choose among 14 candidates for mayor and select school board and City Council members for their districts. They also will decide whether to approve six different propositions constituting San Antonio’s record $850 million bond that includes 180 infrastructure, parks, and facility improvements across the city. The Alamo Colleges’ $450 million bond, which would provide funding to build and renovate new facilities, also is included on the ballot.
In the 2015 mayoral election, only 12.4% of registered voters turned out to cast ballots, while more than 40% of registered voters turned out for the 2016 presidential election. Many have argued that turnout would more than double if local elections were held in November.
“The average turnout in local elections is terrible,” said resident David McDermott, who came to Lions Field on Broadway to vote early. “With all the conflict and the chaos on a national scale, it [will be] a shame if we don’t get more turnout.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said there have been past local elections with voter turnout as low as 6% or 7%.
“If people realized how convenient early voting was, more people would do it and they wouldn’t feel as stressed or as obligated to vote and realize it’s something they could fit into their schedule,” said Daniel Delgado, a bar manager who works on the Eastside.
He told the Rivard Report that he voted for incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor because of “her ability to build and create infrastructure thus far.” Delgado added that he voted “yes” for the six propositions that make up the $850 million municipal bond.
“Obviously the bond is not perfect, and there are some things in there that could use maybe a magnifying glass or a fine-toothed comb,” he said, “but in general, for the city to utilize what it’s built up as far as its bond rating … you can’t always wait for tomorrow.”
Rosie Romero, 68, who voted at the Bexar County Justice Center downtown, said she votes early to “beat the crowds” on Election Day.
“It’s a great opportunity for every American citizen to take advantage of – it affects the city of San Antonio,” she said.
Romero voted for incumbent District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña to represent her district. Taylor was her mayoral pick. Taylor is up against frontrunners Manuel Medina and Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) and 11 other candidates.
“I was between [Ivy] and Ron, but I voted for Ivy because I believe she’s doing a good job,” Romero said, adding that she voted against propositions related to the bond because she’s afraid of a tax increase. However, the bond requires no city property tax increase this year.
Married couple Dru and Rose Barcus decided to drive down to Lions Field to vote around noon on Monday.
“It was a less than a two-minute wait for us,” Rose Barcus said. “For mayoral candidates, I voted for Ron Nirenberg. I just feel like he’s more in tune to inclusivity in the whole city.”
Dru Barcus said he voted for the Alamo Colleges bond. “I used to be an employee of San Antonio College,” he said. “I would love to see that college system get more funding.”
Although turnout was up, several people at polling places Monday told the Rivard Report they believe city-wide Fiesta celebrations may put a damper on early voting numbers. When given the choice between a fun Fiesta event and voting early, they said, many people may postpone voting and never make it out to the polls.
“I would hope that most people realize that the opportunity that early voting presents is to be able to undertake your civic duty while not missing out on any of the fun times that San Antonio is really all about,” Delgado said, referring to the Fiesta parades and celebrations. “You should be able to juxtapose both.”
To read the Rivard Report‘s 2017 election coverage archive, click here.