Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
San Antonians trickled out Saturday morning to cast their ballots for city elections after polls opened at 7 a.m.
Campaign volunteers and voters at multiple precincts said they had seen a slow morning. Carol Pierce, who voted at Brook Hollow Library on Saturday morning, said she was surprised to see so few people at the location.
“Usually you have candidates and supporters,” she said. “And we walked here because there’s usually nowhere to park.”
Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen expects turnout to follow the trend of past city elections. In the last five city elections, early voting and mail-in ballots have made up 62 percent or more of the total turnout.
This year, in-person early voting trailed the last local election by more than 2,000 votes.
Of the 961,087 people eligible to vote in the May elections for mayor and City Council seats, 66,875 residents cast ballots at poll sites across Bexar County during the seven-day early voting period.
In May 2017, 68,979 voted in person before election day over seven days and 38,633 voters showed up on election day, or 33 percent of the total 116,222 voters.
Election officials oversaw a relatively smooth and typical early voting period, Callanen said. The first week of early voting coincided with Fiesta, and polls were closed Friday, April 26, the day of the Battles of Flowers Parade.
“It’s been fairly quiet,” Callanen said.
The Elections Department received 8,610 mail-in ballots in 2017, bringing the early vote total up to 77,589. The Elections Department will continue to accept mail-in ballots through Saturday, Callanen said.
Though this election early voting period falls within the expected range of voter turnout – Callanen said local elections typically draw 10 percent to 13 percent of registered voters – it doesn’t signify substantial voter engagement.
“When you have approximately a million voters that you have the opportunity of coming in, 66,000 looks awfully low,” she said.
Beth and Greg Lewis voted at Christian Evers Elementary School in Northwest San Antonio. The couple moved to San Antonio four years ago, so this was the second local election in which they’ve participated.
“I think I was voter number 7 [at this precinct],” said Greg Lewis.
Beth Lewis said they both usually vote early, but their schedules didn’t allow them to take advantage of that this year. She still thought more people would have turned out on Election Day, she said.
“I expected it to be bigger today,” she said. “San Antonians just really engage in their local community so I expected to see more participating.”
By noon, 13,874 people had voted across Bexar County, according to Callanen, and there have been 26 sites with voter counts in the single digits and two with no voters at all. The Great Northwest Library counted 34 voters by 9:30 a.m.
A few firefighters, whose union backs District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse in his challenge to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, stood outside of the library, waving at voters and talking to anyone who asked questions. Roland Aguirre, who has worked for the San Antonio Fire Department for more than 18 years, wore a shirt that said “BROCKHOUSE 4 MAYOR” on the back and waved at people as they drove through the parking lot. He said he has seen a steady flow of voters since he arrived at the polling location around 10:30 a.m., but the firefighters refrained from approaching voters on their own.
“Ninety-nine percent of people already know who they’re voting for,” he said. “We’re not gonna change minds by yelling.”
Poll sites are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Check the Bexar County Elections Department website here to find your precinct location. You must vote at your precinct and present valid identification. Cell phone use is not permitted inside the polling site. Voters in line by 7 p.m. will be permitted to vote.