As polls opened early Tuesday morning, the lengthy lines of Smith County residents looking to vote early led to a first-day turnout similar to the last presidential election.
For the first day of early voting, 5,674 voters cast their ballot for the November General Election for races including the president, members of U.S. Congress, state legislature, city council and school board seats in some areas.
Despite the lines, which wrapped around buildings and remained crowded for much of the day, with some early voters even reading books to pass the time, the first day of early voting in 2020 was actually 88 votes short of the 2016 numbers, with 5,762 voting on the first day of early voting four years ago, according to the Smith County Elections Office.
Due to COVID-19, people will have more time to make their voice heard as Gov. Greg Abbott announced this summer an extension of early voting by one week.
Early voting will run through Oct. 30. Abbott also extended the time that mail-in ballots can be delivered in person to local election’s office both prior to and on Election Day.
For Smith County, Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said people using mail-in ballots can turn their information into the office foyer of the R.B. Hubbard Center “The Hub,” located at 304 E. Ferguson St. in Tyler. This can be done up until 7 p.m. on Election Day.
“Going forward, we need to make sure the public is getting the in-person mail ballot return information,” Nelson said. “Some voters were waiting in the early voting line only to find out the mail ballot return table was in our office foyer.”
For safety, the elections office has taken a variety of measures for COVID-19 protection, such as sanitizing equipment throughout the day, providing disposable swabs and gloves for each voter and using social distancing. All voters are encouraged but not required to wear masks. Election workers helping with curbside voting are required to wear masks and gloves.
Nelson said voters were appreciative of the COVID-19 safety precautions.
Early voting will continue through this Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and reopen next week Monday through Friday for the same hours. On Oct. 24, people can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Oct. 25, the polls will be open from noon to 5 p.m.
On Oct. 26 to 30, people can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those who haven’t voted by that time can go to the polls on Nov. 3 (Election Day).
Early voting locations include the R.B. Hubbard Center “The Hub” (304 E. Ferguson St. in Tyler), Heritage Building (1900 Bellwood Road in Tyler), Chapel Hill Fire Department (13801 County Road 220 in Tyler), Noonday Community Center (16662 County Road 196 in Tyler), WorkHub (7922 S. Broadway Ave. in Tyler), Lindale Kinzie Community Center (912 Mt. Sylvan St. in Lindale) and Tyler Area Senior Citizens Association Activity Center (10495 County Road 2167 in Whitehouse).