By Ashley Moss
Some Texas voting numbers on Day 1 of early voting 35,944 Denton County 59,000 Dallas County set new record 42,428 Tarrant County 128,000 Harris County
On the first day of early voting in Texas, Dallas area residents gathered in Fair Park for a drive-in rally to hear Dr. Jill Biden as she urged voters to cast their ballots for the Biden-Harris ticket. “Joe will be a president for all Americans,” said his wife to supporters “riding with Biden” in at least 100 cars on October 13.
As she talked about the former Vice President’s plan to rebuild an America that’s “better than ever, “she laid out a proposal that includes a guarantee to end the COVID-19 pandemic, provide healthcare for those with preexisting conditions, and secure good-paying jobs to help boost the economy.
Dr. Biden, who holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership, was joined in Dallas by several Democrats, including Congress member Eddie Bernice Johnson, Colin Allred, and Marc Veasey and Congressional candidate Candace Valenzuela; all hoping to turn Texas blue during this high stakes election, for the first time in 44 years.
“I’m on a mission today,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “This is the first day of early voting. If you have not voted, vote before the day is over and spend the rest of the time getting other people to vote. That’s what’s going to help us get to 2021.” But a spokesman for the Republican Party in Texas said the effort was a little too late. “It has been demonstrated this cycle that you can do traditional campaigning while maintaining social distancing and following CDC guidelines.
Waiting until the beginning of Early Voting to come out of hiding is a disservice to the voters of Texas,” said William Busby, Dallas County Republican Party Communications Director in a statement where he noted that the effort by the Biden-Harris campaign was “nothing more than political theater and photo ops.” Still, early voters flocked to the polls in North Texas, perhaps hoping their vote either way would help tip the scales and alleviate concerns about a range of issues, including the economy, racism, and COVID-19.
Two such voters were Kenneth and Barbara Williams, a couple from Rowlett that attended the rally. “We didn’t really want to stand in line a long time in order to vote so we decided to use our mail-in ballots,” said Mr. Williams, adding that they were able to take time to fill out their ballots and research topics or candidates that they were unfamiliar with. “We have a person in power who has no regard for human life which is why we’ve had so many people lose their lives (during Coronavirus) under this President,” he said.
Meanwhile, elections officials were prepared for increased voter participation. “This election is unprecedented in scope, size, and interest level,” said Robert Heard, Sr., Assistant Elections Administrator for the Dallas County Elections Department, adding that by early evening almost 51,000 voters had flocked to the polls in a county that has been plagued by a summer of civil unrest and an unemployment rate still higher than the average, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Kimberly Mathis, who usually casts her ballot in Grapevine, said that the turnout in Tarrant County was also massive. “It normally takes me five or 10 minutes to vote, but this morning it took me over an hour and the line was wrapped around the building,” she said. “Texans are strong and we’re ready. We know how important this election is.” Recent polls show that one in five voters in Texas will show up to the polls for the first time, an insight that was reflected less than a mile away from the Biden rally, at the Martin Luther King Community Center in South Dallas.
Neighborhood residents were still lining up around the building for the chance to cast their ballot late into the afternoon. “All of the stuff that’s going on in the world, now is the time to do it,” said Brenda Littlejohn, 69, who voted for the first time, in this 2020 election. “Voting is our God-given right,” added her daughter Carra Brown, who drove more than 30 minutes from her home in North Dallas to vote at the community center, and whose main concerns in this year’s election were racial equity and public safety. “I believe in what I believe in,” she said about her decision to vote for the Democratic ticket in this year’s national election.
“I believe in Biden and Harris. I think they’re the best candidates to change the outcome of what we’re going through right now,” she added. “I’m disappointed in the way the country has been run in the last four years,” said D. Wafford, 60, as he propped up a chair behind the community center and prepared for the wait. “A change will bring some stability to the White House.”