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Long lines break El Paso early voting records

Nina Titovets

Within a week, the next president of the United States will be announced, and in the state of Texas, El Paso is breaking records in voter turnout in the first days of early voting.

Early voting started Monday, Oct. 17, and as of Sunday almost 91,000 El Paso citizens have cast their vote, a 71 percent increase from the 2012 presidential election.

An El Paso Times analysis of county voting records shows that El Paso voters continue to be younger and that more females are voting. The analysis also shows that the average age of voters through this Sunday was 55 compared to an average age of 60 in 2012. The analysis shows that women voter turn out has increased, and that more than 56 percent of voters have been women compared to average rate of 52 or 53 percent in the 2012 election.

Jose Villalobos, associate professor of political science, serves as faculty liaison for nonpartisan voter registration. More than 8,000 citizens have become registered voters with help of Villalobos and his students.   

“Over the past year, since last September, for this election cycle we’ve been doing intense voter registration efforts, week to week, usually on multiple days of the week,” Villalobos said.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, early voting took place at UTEP and the lines to vote had two or more hour wait times. The El Paso Times reported that 920 citizens turned out to vote at UTEP, which is a large difference when compared to the 2012 election, where 1,060 votes were cast during two days of early voting at UTEP.

“A lot of people are opting for early voting this year because social media has played a major role–it helps to promote it,” Villalobos said. “Early voting can make it easier because on the day of the election you never know what can happen, and people should see the importance of voting before the actual election day.”

As of Oct. 29, El Paso county had an increase of 77 percent when compared to the 2012 election. Which made El Paso  the third-highest county to have an increase in early voters, according to USA Today.

Travis county had an increase of 101 percent while Williamson county had an increase of 82 percent. On Saturday, 20 percent of El Paso’s registered voters had cast their votes, compared to Harris County’s 24 percent, 25 percent in Dallas County and 29 percent in Travis County.

Early voting took place at the Andesite Room inside of Union East, and people were in line outside of the building all day long waiting to cast their vote. Stephanie Avalos, an employee for UTEP athletics, said that despite the long wait, casting her vote was worth the time in line.

“I waited about an hour and half, it’s worth it. You’re voting for the leaders of El Paso and for the country, but the process could be expedited,” Avalos said. “The lines have turned people away, but honestly having stood in line I didn’t see a lot of people leave, and that shows that people know how important is this year’s election.”

Some voters said the lines were long and that the process of voting at UTEP was inefficient. Four voting booths were available while two people were in charge of collecting voters’ ID information.

Villalobos had formerly requested a week of early voting at UTEP, but he said that everyone was in favor, but parking at UTEP was the key issue for not having that full week.

“They basically said ‘we’re not gonna do that, we’ve got these other priorities, we’re having trouble getting people into the parking, so we’re not going to open the garage to the whole public,’” Villalobos said.

He also said that if parking had been made public at UTEP, they would have had more voting booths and more people could have helped voters to cast their vote, cutting down wait times.

“We got one Thursday,” said Villalobos. “I feel so bad for the students who couldn’t be here on a Thursday to vote.”

Villalobos said that polls show Clinton is not far from Trump in Texas, and that voter turnout during early voting could create a more competitive race in the state.

Data by RealClearPolitics shows that Texas could be one the biggest battleground states of this election. Clinton, who is five points away from Trump, could change a state that has voted Republican since 1976.

Villalobos said Texas has had a much closer race this year because voters are unsure of their party candidates, making them reconsider their vote. He also said that voters are turning out to vote in higher numbers because of Trump’s offensive language to both women and immigrants.

“Most experts still would say that Texas is still going to go red, but just the fact that it’s that close, it just goes to show that this is big news,” Villalobos said. “It’s a big incentive to not take for granted this election.”

He aid that voters should take this news seriously, and that if Democrats want to change Texas’ color they must go and vote because this could be a very close race that may end up turning Texas into a blue state. 

“The same message goes to the other side (Republicans),” Villalobos said. “Don’t feel apathetic and not vote because you just think it’s going to go red–it is within shooting range, it is within striking range of perhaps going blue.”

Villalobos also said that the presidential race in Texas could be decided by just a few points, making this state as one of the most important for both candidates.

CNN’s electoral map shows Donald Trump winning 20 states that are solidly Republican, giving him 157 electoral points out of the 270 needed to win. Texas is among the states that Trump is hoping to win, since it one of the higher valued with 38 electoral points.

Clinton has 17 solidly Democratic states, and is leading the poll with 200 electoral points out of the 270 needed to win.

Villalobos said that if Texas voters turn out in higher numbers, Trump and Clinton could have a very close race, and that Texas could be the decisive state in choosing the next president.

“If Trump loses Texas, there is no way he’ll be president at all,” Villalobos said. “Based on the electoral map, Texas is something that Trump definitely has to count on.”

Besides voting for the next president, voters have other important decisions to make when casting their vote. State representatives. county attorney, sheriff and the El Paso ISD bond initiative are among many other issues that are on the ballot.

“The best thing right now is social media and the internet, that is our best tool,” Villalobos said. “You can go online and you can just type in El Paso voter guide and that will give you links to all the different candidates that are up to election and the issues that you have to vote for.”

Early voting will continue through Nov. 4 in other parts of the city. For more information about where to vote, visit

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Rene Delgadillo, Multimedia Editor
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Long lines break El Paso early voting records