The 2020 Voting Experience in Texas

We went to early voting this morning, and this being 2020, it was more of a journey than a mere item on the checklist. Reports have surfaced from around the country of people standing in long lines for many hours, so we decided to be prepared.

We went in a small group — my wife and I, my eldest son, and my brother and sister in law — so that any long wait would at least entail company and conversation. Polling locations in Austin are fewer than last year, and our normal venue was not active. The nearest polling spot was perhaps a 20 minute drive from our house. Expecting long lines outdoors, we took two or three camp chairs. And we were determined not to let this eat our entire day, so we rose early. We left around 625AM and arrived before the polls opened, around 645AM.

We rolled in to the parking lot and saw the promised lines already winding around the building. Here is the pre-dawn image of the line, with the actual poll about 50-60 yards to the left, and the line receding into the darkness on the right:

Turns out the line went much further, wrapping behind a grocery store…

The morning was quiet. Everyone was wearing masks and doing their bit by maintaining social distance. The sun rose. We continued to inch forward, dragging our little cluster of camp chairs with us. The line continued to grow behind us. At about 745AM, I decided to pace off the entire length from nose to tail — the line was fully 300 yards long.

We watched as new arrivals rounded the corner and beheld the remainder of the line. Their shock sometimes turned to dismay, and they turned back and went home. But most of them stayed, joining the grim and determined lot of us.

Meanwhile, a sturdy group of volunteers pulled a wagon of chips and drinks up and down the line at regular intervals. They even offered folding chairs for people that needed a rest. Excellent folks, and I imagine they march thousands of yards per day.

We advanced to the first corner, and then the second.

At that point, we had been in line for some 90 minutes, but we felt encouraged because the polling location was actually within sight.

Progress seemed to speed up from this point. We finally made it inside the polling location itself. It was very professionally run and proceeded like clockwork — which could be considered a minor miracle, given that we seemed not to have the “help” of poll watchers or militia members (eye roll). We all did our civic duty and felt some relief that the entire affair took us only 1 hour and 51 minutes (plus the round trip of 40 minutes or so). The folks at the polls told us the wait yesterday was better than 3 1/2 hours.

We ended with a group selfie, and as seemed befitting for 2020, we kept it bandit-style.

My only reflection on this affair is the obvious one. It seems to take longer to vote in America every year. It is almost as if someone was working to discourage participation.

Comments

  1. When I vote we walk to the polling station. Either a church one street over or a seniors home two streets over. I’d be surprised if it takes 10 minutes as we enter and leave the building. A Covid election would certainly take longer. Just nothing like what the U.S. goes through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sylvia says:

    Congratulations! Early voting starts on Thursday in NC. I plan to be in line early! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We spent three hours in line for early voting in Fairfax, VA. Totally worth it. There had been problems with obnoxious MAGA campaigners obstructing the entrance the first day or two, but on the day we went the county had brought in additional security and there were no issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know there were states that still weren’t allowing unexcused absentee this year (there are five). That’s a ridiculous barrier to voter participation. I’ve voted absentee in Washington for the last 20 years. The claims by the cult of Trumpism that there are widespread issues with mail-in fraud is especially farcical to those of us who have been relying on it for decades.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a coworker who came from Oregon, and he said he’s never voted in person, always by mail.

      I tell you what the troubling thing is — that there are different state to state standards for national elections in the first place. Why should the vote for a Washingtonian be treated even slightly different than the vote of a Texan? Madness.

      Like

      • I don’t have a problem with putting states in charge of voting, but it’s ridiculous that some states think it’s OK that voters have to plan as if voting could be an all day event. I would definitely support a federal mandate requiring all states to allow unexcused absentee voting.

        Another huge advantage of mail-in: for the non-obvious stuff, I do almost all my research at the time I’m voting, and don’t have to make every decision immediately. It can be a multi-day event. It’s WAY easier to be an informed voter when you can vote from your couch.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s interesting. I’m a research type person too. Here you can’t have your phone out when you vote — you have to research first, make notes on a scrap of paper with what propositions you will vote on, and use that in the voting booth.

          Like

  5. That’s crazy.
    In Australia, we have mandatory voting which you’d think might make for longer queues. Somehow we manage to get through it, with polls closing at 6pm, and if you have you wait more than 5-10 minutes you’re cursing your bad timing for having hit the ‘peak’.
    If there’s a polling place with a particularly good sausage sizzle BBQ (aka ‘democracy sausage’) or cake stall, you might be willing to wait a few more minutes… We even have a website where people can source and rate their polling booth BBQ (https://democracysausage.org/).
    It’s all so…amicable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, and like we talked about, mandatory voting would make for more stable outcomes and candidates who play to the center instead of the impassioned extremes. Maybe we could have campaigns that don’t cost billions while we’re at it, eh?

      Like

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